Game 5 victory gives experienced 'Hawks shot to win Cup at home
Despite this golden-age run the Chicago Blackhawks are on, they haven't clinched a Stanley Cup on home ice since 1938, when they defeated Toronto three games to one.
Chicago won the Cup in Detroit in 1961, in Philadelphia in 2010 and in Boston in 2013.
"Never been in this spot," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I'm sure it will be crazy over the next two days in town. The buzz will be off the charts."
Just as it did against Anaheim in the Western Conference finals, Chicago dug deep after being outplayed through much of the first four games.
"The idea is to get better and better as the series goes on for both teams. I think both teams have done that. We'll see what happens the next couple games."
Play of the day: Bishop's blunder. Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop's health has been in question for much of this series, so it was shocking to see him stray so far from the net early in the first period. He compounded that problem by not letting teammate Victor Hedman know he was there. The two collided, Sharp picked up the loose puck and scored the NHL equivalent of an uncontested layup for a 1-0 lead.
Turning point: That torrid Tampa second period. Chicago owned the first period, but only came out with a 1-0 lead. Tampa turned the tide in the second period and tied the game, but the Lightning couldn't take advantage of a raucous home crowd and went to the intermission tied 1-1 despite a decided edge in play. Chicago scored two minutes into the third period and the Lightning never recovered.
1. Antoine Vermette, C, Chicago. Vermette scored his third game-winning goal of the playoffs and second of this series when he knocked in a feed from Kris Versteeg off the rush.
2. Corey Crawford, G, Chicago: After an easy start to the game, Crawford turned aside 31 of 32 Tampa shots. He has stopped 55 of 57 shots over the last two games, both wins.
3. Kris Versteeg, LW, Chicago. Versteeg set up Vermette's game-winner and set up a pair of chances for linemate Teuvo Teravainen. Chicago's third line was the best line in Saturday's game.
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
Series: Chicago leads 3-2.
Key stat: The Blackhawks have been tied 2-2 in nine series since the 2009 playoffs. They improved to 17-1 in games 5-7 of those series.
Key stat II: The Lightning will play their 26th playoff game of the season on Monday, matching the Los Angeles Kings' record from last year.
Best visual: Officials' gaffe. Seconds before the Blackhawks' Sharp scored the game's first goal, Crawford illegally played the puck outside the trapezoid. It should have resulted in a minor penalty, negating Chicago's scoring chance.
Speaking of illegal: With less than 10 seconds to play and Tampa trailing 2-1, the Lightning went to extreme measures to find the tying goal. As too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties go, this one was an easy call.
Best quote: "I think there are happy days ahead." — Never-say-die Tampa coach Jon Cooper of his team's 3-2 series deficit.
What we learned: All that talk about Anaheim wearing out Chicago so Tampa Bay could take advantage was foolishness. The Blackhawks had two days of rest before Game 5 in Tampa. That was enough to get the jump back in their step, and the 'Hawks looked dominant in the early going, outshooting the Lightning 14-5, scoring the first goal and taking a lead into the first intermission. Chicago is unbeaten in these playoffs when that happens.
Next game: Game 6, Monday at 8 p.m. ET at United Center in Chicago.
Final thought: Injuries are part of the playoffs, but if Tampa loses this series, it will bemoan the injury that befell forward Nikita Kucherov when he crashed into the post shortly after missing a glorious scoring chance on a misplayed puck by Crawford. Kucherov left the game and did not return.
Kucherov is second in playoff points to teammate Tyler Johnson with 22. Once he left, Cooper broke up his first line and put Steven Stamkos with Johnson and Ondrej Palat. The line was ineffective.
doesn't score and probably breaks his collar bone. poor Kucherov pic.twitter.com/RGhuIyVjPJ— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) June 14, 2015