Rookie makes a sud­den im­pact

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - he­lene.el­liott@la­times.com Twit­ter: @he­le­nenothe­len

TAMPA, Fla. — Chicago Black­hawks for­ward Teuvo Ter­a­vainen is shy around re­porters, al­most painfully so, though the 20-year-old Finn’s grasp of English is nearly as good as his grasp of the game he graces with his an­tic­i­pa­tion and clev­er­ness.

Thrust into Game 1 of the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal, he was poised while scor­ing a goal and set­ting up another to ig­nite the third-pe­riod rally that car­ried Chicago to a 2-1 vic­tory over the Tampa Bay Light­ning on Wed­nes­day be­fore a lively crowd at Amalie Arena. Thrust in front of a me­dia scrum af­ter­ward, he wasn’t so self-as­sured.

“I’m a lot con­fi­dent out there than in the me­dia right here. So that’s a good thing to be,” he said. “When I scored the goal I think the first thing was, ‘Oh no, I have to go do me­dia now.’ ” Are we that ter­ri­fy­ing? “Yeah, you are,” he said, smil­ing.

Ter­a­vainen will have to

con­quer that fear be­cause he’s go­ing to be in high de­mand for in­ter­views af­ter turn­ing the tide of a game in which the Black­hawks ini­tially strug­gled against Tampa Bay’s speed and didn’t get much go­ing of­fen­sively.

The Light­ning rode the crowd’s en­ergy dur­ing a strong first pe­riod and scored on Alex Kil­lorn’s be­hind-the-back, back­handed re­di­rect­ion of a shot by An­ton Stral­man four min­utes and 31 sec­onds into the game.

It was a jolt of re­al­ity for the Black­hawks.

“It’s a new se­ries. They’ve got a good team,” Chicago de­fense­man Dun­can Keith said. “They came out hard and got the first goal. It was close. They had a few shots and they got the crowd be­hind them. We’ve played in a lot of hec­tic build­ings this year in these play­offs and I thought we did a good job deal­ing with that as the game went on.”

They were pa­tient and poised — and for­tu­nate when goal­tender Corey Craw­ford stopped Tampa Bay’s Ryan Cal­la­han on a breakaway at 11:38 of the third pe­riod. Soon af­ter­ward Ter­a­vainen took over, dis­play­ing the skill that led the Black­hawks to choose him 18th over­all in the 2012 en­try draft.

His shot from the top of the left cir­cle snaked past a screened Ben Bishop at 13:28 to forge a tie, and on his next shift he forced Tampa Bay to turn the puck over and prod­ded it to team­mate An­toine Ver­mette, who whipped a shot past Bishop at 15:26.

“He sees the ice re­ally well and at such a young age,” team­mate Mar­ian Hossa mar­veled. “Hav­ing a big game like this is amaz­ing.

“He’s so calm. He’s Fin­nish cold.”

It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that Ter­a­vainen couldn’t crack the Black­hawks’ lineup ear­lier this sea­son — he was sent to Rock­ford (Ill.) of the Amer­i­can Hockey League — and was a healthy scratch as re­cently as Game 3 of the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals against the Ducks, one of Coach Joel Quen­neville’s few mis­steps. Now, it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the Black­hawks with­out Ter­a­vainen, whose per­for­mance al­lowed them to win their first play­off game this spring in which Jonathan Toews and Pa­trick Kane were held with­out a point.

“I knew I would have to be pa­tient,” Ter­a­vainen said of his de­vel­op­ment. “I’m a young guy. I have to get stronger, of course. It was a good start for me to start the sea­son in the AHL and get used to the size of the ice and North Amer­i­can style hockey. I fi­nally got my chance and I think I’m get­ting bet­ter all the time.”

Light­ning play­ers lamented that they sat back too much in the third pe­riod and didn’t put the Black­hawks away. They had been 8-0 in previous play­off games they led af­ter two pe­ri­ods.

“I think for 45 of the 60 min­utes we were pretty great, ac­tu­ally,” for­ward Steven Stamkos said. “We just let a team stick around that’s ex­pe­ri­enced in these sit­u­a­tions and that prob­a­bly knew that if they keep it to one they had a chance.”

Light­ning Coach Jon Cooper called Ter­a­vainen’s goal “a see­ing-eye sin­gle. That goal had eyes.” He said that although his team could have cleared the puck out of the zone on the goal and the turnover was costly lead­ing up to Ver­mette’s win­ner, he oth­er­wise had few com­plaints about his team’s ef­fort. “I think the way I’d look at the game, we didn’t re­ally give them much the en­tire game,” he said.

But they gave Ter­a­vainen just enough time and space to work the kind of magic that’s bound to sub­ject him to more in­ter­views and me­dia ex­po­sure.

Scott Iskowitz Getty Im­ages

CHICAGO’S JONATHAN TOEWS, right, leans on Tampa Bay’s Ryan Cal­la­han as they go around the net dur­ing the opener of the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal.

Chris O’Meara As­so­ci­ated Press

CHICAGO RIGHT WING Kris Ver­steeg goes into the net as Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop tries to avoid the col­li­sion dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod.

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