When pres­sure is on, so are Black­hawks

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - HE­LENE EL­LIOTT he­lene.el­liott@la­times.com Twit­ter: @he­le­nenothe­len

TAMPA, Fla. — Mem­bers of the Tampa Bay Light­ning awoke Thurs­day with a sense of re­morse af­ter be­ing un­able to ex­tend a late lead and put away the Chicago Black­hawks in the opener of the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal.

“You should be a lit­tle an­gry ... that we had a chance to take Game 1,” cen­ter Brian Boyle said of Wed­nes­day’s game. “It’s just Game 1, but it was a good op­por­tu­nity for us to start the se­ries the way we wanted to.

“We need to un­der­stand we’ve got to play our sys­tem and play it ag­gres­sively, know­ing that you can’t wake up in the morn­ing hav­ing some re­grets that we were a lit­tle too pas­sive.”

Mem­bers of the Black­hawks awoke af­ter their 2-1 come­back victory with re­in­forced con­fi­dence, hav­ing proved again that even when they don’t play their best they can win. Why? Be­cause they’ve be­come so com­fort­able in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions dur­ing a stretch in which they’ve reached the Fi­nal three times in six sea­sons and al­ready won it twice.

Cen­ter An­toine Ver­mette, who scored the win­ner Wed­nes­day, and rookie winger Teuvo Ter­a­vainen, who brought Chicago even at 1-1 at 13 min­utes 28 sec­onds of the third pe­riod and set up Ver­mette’s goal 1:58 later, didn’t start the sea­son with the Black­hawks. But both quickly learned the im­mea­sur­able value of their team­mates’ vast ex­pe­ri­ence, which gives Chicago the abil­ity to thrive un­der the un­for­giv­ing ten­sion of post­sea­son play.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence fac­tor is some­thing from the out­side you can imag­ine be­ing there. But the way the guys are pro­fes­sional ap­proach­ing ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, it speaks for it­self,” said Ver­mette, who was ac­quired in a trade with Ari­zona on Feb. 28. “I think you can tell they’ve been through some ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ter­a­vainen, who be­gan the sea­son with Rock­ford (Ill.) of the Amer­i­can Hockey League, is ben­e­fit­ing from see­ing his team­mates re­main calm and find ways to adapt no mat­ter what they face.

“I think there’s al­ways a feel­ing in our locker room when we’re down a cou­ple goals that we might come back,” Ter­a­vainen said.

“It’s just a great thing to have.”

There’s no way to buy ex­pe­ri­ence; you have to go through the chal­lenges and tri­umphs to gain the poise and re­silience the Black­hawks have shown ev­ery round. It’s a key rea­son they over­came a slow start and won Wed­nes­day and the Light­ning — which started strong but strayed from its suc­cess­ful for­mula when it sat back too much in the third pe­riod — had so many re­grets.

“I think there’s that con­fi­dence in our group that we can find ways to come back if we’re not in an ideal sit­u­a­tion in a game or a se­ries,” Jonathan Toews said Thurs­day, a rest day for both teams.

Seven Black­hawks are play­ing in their third Fi­nal with the team: Brent Seabrook, Dun­can Keith, Toews, Mar­ian Hossa, Nik­las Hjal­mars­son, Pa­trick Kane and Pa­trick Sharp. Cen­ter Brad Richards is in his third Fi­nal with his third team, hav­ing been there with Tampa Bay in 2004 and the New York Rangers last year. Over­all, the Black­hawks have 19 play­ers with Fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing 14 from their 2013 cham­pi­onship team.

The Light­ning has six play­ers with Fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence but only one has his name on the Cup — Valt­teri Filp­pula with Detroit in 2008. An­ton Stral­man and Boyle played for the Rangers in their loss to the Kings last sea­son, Matt Carle and Bray­don Coburn were with Philadel­phia in the Fly­ers’ 2010 loss to the Black­hawks, and Bren­den Mor­row played for run­ner-up Dal­las against New Jer­sey as a rookie in 2000.

Steven Stamkos said he and his Light­ning team- mates were “try­ing to do the right thing” Wed­nes­day but for some rea­son let up of­fen­sively while try­ing to pro­tect their 1-0 lead.

“We gave a team that is very skilled and tal­ented, knows what to do in those sit­u­a­tions, we gave them the puck. They had it too much. The rest is his­tory af­ter that,” Stamkos said. “We learned our les­son pretty quick here.”

They’ll have to put all of their lessons to use in Game 2 on Satur­day at Amalie Arena, or risk go­ing to Chicago in a deep hole.

“This will be a dif­fer­ent test for our group,” Stamkos said.

“I think we look at all the pos­i­tives in that game. There was a lot. I know that was the first game for a lot of us in the Fi­nal but I don’t think that’s an ex­cuse for our group any­more. We got that out of the way.”

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