(Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks overcame a slow start to race past the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday.
Trailing 1-0 deep into the third period, Tuevo Teravainen tied the contest with a wrist shot at 13:28 before Antoine Vermette came through with the game-winner with less than five minutes to play. With the game looking like it would head to overtime, Chicago put pressure on the Lightning and when the puck came loose in their zone Vermette gathered and fired it past goaltender Ben Bishop to complete the comeback.
“We just had to stay patient and not get frustrated,” Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford told reporters after making 22 saves.
Crawford made a stop on a Ryan Callahan shot just before Chicago’s equalizer to keep his tem alive.
“I was a little more aggressive than usual. I just tried to take away any net he may have.”
Chicago’s outburst ended a shutout streak for Bishop who had held opponents scoreless for a total of 113:28, dating back to Game Six of the Eastern Conference final.
Bishop finished with 19 stops but the Lightning would lament their lost opportunity.
“You want to protect the lead and we’ve been quite successful in doing so in past games,” said Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said.
“This time, we’re playing a highly-skilled team and they’re a little bit too good to give that much room and that much puck possession. So, lesson learned.”
For much of the night it looked as though the Lightning had the measure of the Blackhawks, who have won two of the last five Stanley Cups.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn opened the scoring at 4:31 in the first period, swatting the puck out of mid-air with his back to the net.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said during the game that his team had been surprised by Tampa Bay’s speed as the Blackhawks usually hold that advantage over their opponents.
While Tampa Bay have only been to the Finals once, winning the Cup in 2004, Chicago have tons of big-game experience and their patience paid off on Wednesday.
Both teams needed Game Seven wins in their conference final battles, but Tampa Bay’s playoff road has been particularly tough.
They needed seven games to take down Detroit in the opening series and six to beat Montreal before their seven-game thriller with the New York Rangers.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series is on Saturday in Tampa Bay.
Editing by Peter Rutherford/Sudipto Ganguly