National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network|
Monday, June 15
(All times Eastern)
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (2-3) AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (3-2), 8 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to wrap up their third
Stanley Cup championship in six seasons when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning
in Monday's Game 6 battle at the United Center.
The Blackhawks were once down 2-1 in this best-of-seven set, but have claimed
a three games to two edge with consecutive victories in Games 4 and 5. Chicago
posted 2-1 victories in each of the last two games to move within one win of
clinching yet another Cup. The resilient Blackhawks have overcome a 2-1
deficit to win a series six times since 2009, including a six-game series win
in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against Boston.
Chicago also has an opportunity to clinch its first title on home ice in 77
years. The Blackhawks, who claimed their 2010 title in Philadelphia and
completed their win over the Bruins on the road in 2013, last celebrated a Cup
victory in the Windy City in 1938, sweeping the Toronto Maple Leafs in four
In the nearly eight decades since that Cup-winning season of '38, the
Blackhawks have only had one chance to wrap up a title at home. That was back
in 1971 when Chicago carried a 3-2 series lead over the Canadiens into Game 6
at the Montreal Forum. The Blackhawks lost in Montreal before dropping the
decisive seventh contest at Chicago Stadium.
"I'm sure it will be crazy over the next two days in town," Blackhawks coach
Joel Quenneville said of the atmosphere in Chicago. "The buzz will be
off the charts. Looking forward to it."
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is hoping to replicate the '71 Canadiens and win two
straight over Chicago to claim the title. The Lightning won their only Stanley
Cup in 2004, when they were down 3-2 to the Calgary Flames before taking Game
6 on the road and winning the decisive contest in Tampa.
If the Bolts can extend the series with a win tonight, they'll host Game 7 on
Chicago is 8-2 at home in this postseason, while the Lightning own a solid 8-4
mark as the guest.
Antoine Vermette had another big moment for the Blackhawks in Game 5, scoring
the deciding goal early in the third period to help his club earn the pivotal
Vermette, an in-season trade acquisition from Arizona, has experienced extreme
highs and lows with the Blackhawks this postseason. The veteran has been a
healthy scratch three times in the 2015 playoffs, most recently for Game 3 of
the Western Conference finals against the Ducks, but he also has four goals,
three of which have been of the game-winning variety. Even better, those three
game-winners have all come in his last nine outings.
Vermette, who delivered the GWG in the opener against Tampa, scored off a Kris
Versteeg rebound just two minutes into the third period on Saturday, snapping
a 1-1 tie.
"I'm glad I'm here to try to help the team," said Vermette. "This is all fun
right now. But there's a lot of work still ahead."
Corey Crawford stood tall the rest of the way for Chicago and ended with 31
Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks, taking advantage of a Tampa Bay
blunder in the opening period.
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop came out to the left circle to play the puck,
but crashed into teammate Victor Hedman, allowing Sharp to gather the puck and
skate in untouched for an easy goal 6:11 into the game. It was Sharp
s fifth goal of the playoffs and first since Game 6 of the opening round
"I just know there was a collision and I found myself with a heck of an
opportunity," Sharp said of his goal.
Bishop, who returned after missing Game 4 with an undisclosed injury, stopped
27 shots. Valtteri Filppula scored the lone goal for the Bolts, who were
outshot 14-5 in the first period but evened the contest midway through the
"We battled hard and got the game tied," Cooper said. "It's unfortunate we
fell short in the end."
While Chicago took advantage of a miscue involving Bishop to score a goal, the
Bolts were unable to capitalize on a stickhandling mistake by Crawford minutes
before Sharp's tally. Making matters worse, Nikita Kucherov, a key winger on
Tampa's prolific "Triplets" line, was injured on the play.
Crawford nearly cost his team the game's first goal with an indecisive clear
from below his goal line that hit a crashing Kucherov. The Chicago netminder
kept the puck out with a diving stab in the crease, resulting in Kucherov
flying into the post and skating off to his bench hunched over in pain not to
Kucherov's status for Monday's game is unclear, but he did travel with the
team to Chicago and is questionable with the undisclosed injury. Kucherov is
second in the NHL with 22 points this postseason, notching 10 goals and 12
assists over 25 games.
Unless these teams break from the script, Game 6 is likely to be another close
battle. For just the second time in Stanley Cup Finals history, the first five
games have been decided by one goal. The other occurrence came in the 1951
series between Toronto and Montreal.
Chicago has outscored Tampa by a slim 11-10 margin and this series marks the
first time in NHL history that there has not been a multi-goal lead in the
opening five games of the Finals.
The Blackhawks improved to 11-1 in one-goal games this postseason and
14-5 in Game 5s under Quenneville.
Chicago has been tied 2-2 nine times since the start of the 2009 playoffs, and
is 17-1 in Games 5-7 of those series. The club's only loss in that span came a
few weeks ago when Anaheim recorded a 5-4 OT win in Game 5 before the
Blackhawks won two straight to claim the West crown.
If the Blackhawks can win tonight, former longtime Philadelphia Flyers
defenseman Kimmo Timonen will realize his dream of playing for a Stanley Cup
winner. Timonen, who was acquired from Philly before the trade deadline, was a
healthy scratch for the first three games of this series before drawing into
the lineup for Games 4 and 5.
It was widely believed Timonen would retire after this season and the 40-
year-old pretty much confirmed that line of think on Saturday.
"Let's be honest: There's five days left in my career," said Timonen.
Timonen, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1993, has never reached
the top of the NHL mountain, but has won four Olympic medals -- three bronze,
one silver -- with Team Finland.
06/15 10:26:30 ET