Black­hawks edge Light­ning 2-1, reach brink of NHL ti­tle

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY GREG BEACHAM

With an­other te­na­cious road victory in this ag­o­niz­ingly close Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal, the Chicago Black­hawks earned an op­por­tu­nity to raise that sil­ver tro­phy on their home ice.

An­toine Ver­mette scored the tiebreak­ing goal early in the third pe­riod, and the Black­hawks moved to the brink of their third NHL cham­pi­onship in six years with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Light­ning in Game 5 on Satur­day night.

“We try not to think too far ahead,” Black­hawks de­fense­man Nik­las Hjal­mars­son said. “But ob­vi­ously you’re just hu­man.”

Corey Craw­ford made 31 saves and Pa­trick Sharp scored an early goal into an accidentally un­guarded net for the Black­hawks, who took a 3-2 se­ries lead by sur­viv­ing an­other tense game in this in­cred­i­bly even se­ries. The first five games all have been de­cided by one goal for just the sec­ond time in Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal his­tory, and the first time since 1951.

Ben Bishop stopped 27 shots af­ter miss­ing Game 4 with an undis­closed in­jury, but the goalie’s il­lad­vised ven­ture out­side the crease led to Sharp’s goal.

Valt­teri Filp­pula scored for the Light­ning, who have scored just two goals while los­ing two straight games for only the sec­ond time in their 25- game post­sea­son. Tampa Bay also lost sec­ond- lead­ing scorer Nikita Kucherov to a first- pe­riod in­jury when he crashed into the Chicago net.

“I feel bad for them, in the sense that I think they’ve de­served a lit­tle bit bet­ter than what we’re sit­ting right now,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said of his play­ers. “But the one thing we are, we’re still alive. We’re not out. This isn’t the press con­fer­ence to say we’re done. I don’t know. I think there’s happy days ahead for us. We’ve just got to

push through this.”

‘Happy days ahead for us’

Game 6 is Mon­day night in Chicago, and seven re­main­ing mem­bers of the Black­hawks’ twotime cham­pion core will have the chance to skate the Stan­ley Cup around the United Cen­ter for the first time af­ter win­ning the other two Cups on the road.

“We’re go­ing to carry this mo­men­tum,” Craw­ford said.

The Light­ning must win two straight to claim the sec­ond Stan­ley Cup ti­tle in fran­chise his­tory.

Game 5 was an­other chap­ter in what’s shap­ing up as the tight­est Fi­nal ever played. Nei­ther team has even held a two-goal lead through five games, stay­ing tied or one goal apart for all 300 min­utes.

The clubs started the third pe­riod in a tie for the third straight game, but Ver­mette cashed in on a loose puck in the slot just two min­utes in.

Bishop kicked the puck straight onto Ver­mette’s tape af­ter stop­ping a rush by Kris Ver­steeg. Ver­mette, the vet­eran for­ward ac­quired from Ari­zona near the trade dead­line, also scored the third-pe­riod tiebreaker at Amelie Arena in the se­ries opener 10 days ago.

While the Light­ning

didn’t know their goalie’s iden­tity un­til ear­lier in the day, Craw­ford de­liv­ered an­other out­stand­ing night in Chicago’s crease right when he was most needed. He capped the per­for­mance with 16 saves in the third pe­riod, per­form­ing flaw­lessly down the stretch just as he did in the pre­vi­ous game.

Bishop de­cided to play af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in the morn­ing skate, and the 53-game win­ner ap­peared to be mov­ing more flu­idly than he did in Game 3. He still gave a goal to the Black­hawks in the first pe­riod with an ill-ad­vised ven­ture out of his crease.

Bishop roamed al­most half­way to the blue line to play a puck and col­lided with star de­fense­man Vic­tor Hed­man. Sharp ended his 13-game goal drought by skat­ing around the pair and chip­ping in the open-net gift in front of Tampa Bay’s stunned fans.

The Black­hawks had sev­eral other golden scor­ing chances be­fore Filp­pula’s goal, in­clud­ing Teuvo Ter­a­vainen miss­ing the net on a clean break­away. The Light­ning evened it when Ja­son Gar­ri­son made a wicked cross-ice pass through Chicago’s de­fense to the Finnish vet­eran, who ended his six-game goal drought.

AFP

Dun­can Keith #2 of the Chicago Black­hawks skates for the puck against Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Light­ning dur­ing the first pe­riod in Game Five of the 2015 NHL Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on Satur­day, June 13.

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