TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Although Teuvo Teravainen has been with the Chicago Blackhawks for just a few months, the 20-year-old Finn already fits in perfectly on a veteran club with a knack for big-game greatness.
And when Chicago’s stars couldn’t crack the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense for the first 53 minutes of the Stanley Cup Final opener, Teravainen stepped up in dramatic fashion to put the Blackhawks on top.
Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored 1:58 apart late in the third period, and the Blackhawks rallied to stun the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Corey Crawford made 22 saves for the Blackhawks, who opened the final series in their quest for their third NHL title in six seasons with more of the clutch offensive play on which they’ve built a championship team — but they didn’t get it from Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane this time.
Instead, it was their youngest player, one who was more worried about public speaking than very public scoring.
“When I scored the goal, the first thing (I thought) was, ‘Oh no, I have to go out in the media after the game,'” Teravainen said.
Teravainen scored through traffic with 6:32 to play, and he forced the turnover that led to Vermette’s winner with 4:34 left. Just like that, the Blackhawks erased Tampa Bay’s home-ice advantage and silenced an Amalie Arena crowd celebrating Tampa Bay’s first trip to the Final since winning the 2004 title.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Teravainen said. “I know we have a great team. We have a lot of experience, but myself, I’m a young guy here, so I try to bring some energy. Tampa Bay is a really great team. It’s a fast game out there. You have to be ready.”
Game 2 is Saturday night in Tampa.
With Toews and Kane off the ice and the clock dwindling, the Blackhawks’ supporting players delivered. And after 2 1/2 periods of strong defense, the Lightning felt they got excessively cautious — Chicago’s persistence finally was rewarded in dramatic fashion.
Shortly after Crawford stopped Ryan Callahan on a breakaway, Marcus Kruger and Valtteri Filppula provided screens in front of goalie Ben Bishop, who never saw Teravainen’s shot for his third goal of the postseason.
Teravainen then forced a turnover by J.T. Brown in the Lightning zone. Vermette collected the bouncing puck in the slot and beat Bishop in the top right corner for his third goal.
Teravainen is the youngest player to have a multipoint game in the Stanley Cup Final since a 19-year-old Jaromir Jagr did it for Pittsburgh in 1991.
“He’s growing more confident every game,” Marian Hossa said. “He doesn’t seem to have a heartbeat. He’s so calm. He’s Finnish cold.”
Vermette joined Teravainen as an unlikely hero, providing a timely return on the Blackhawks’ much-debated decision to acquire him from Arizona at the trade deadline.
“We got better as the game went on,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Huge goal through traffic, and then a nice shot by Vermy. Turned out to be a great third period. … Finding a way to win is what this team is all about.”
Bishop stopped 19 shots and Alex Killorn scored in the opening minutes for Tampa Bay, which appeared to be closing in on a gritty shutout victory.
“For most of the game, we saw we can hang, and we can be better,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “You’ve got to go through these situations to learn from them. It comes down to the small details, and it comes down to a bounce.”
In his first game since shutting out the Rangers at Madison Square Garden to win the East title, the 6-foot-7 Bishop and his defense were a few minutes away from his third shutout in four games.
In fact, Tampa Bay appeared to frustrate the Blackhawks to the point of biting: Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman believes Chicago’s Andrew Shaw bit him on the torso during a scrum after the whistle in the second period. Hedman lifted his jersey on the bench to show the bruise.
“We really didn’t give them much the entire game,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Could we have made a few more poised plays? I guess we could have. But we had chances to put them away, and that was letting them hang around.”
The winner of Game 1 has won the Cup in 58 of the last 75 Finals since 1939, including the last three.
Chicago roared into its third Final under Quenneville and its 13th overall after outlasting Anaheim in a memorable seven-game conference final. A roster loaded with championship-winning players and veteran talent made the Blackhawks most observers’ favorite in this series despite questions about a defense relying heavily on just four players, including tireless star Duncan Keith, who played 29 minutes, 15 seconds against the Lightning.
After a stirring pregame celebration of the Lightning’s return to the Final 11 years after winning their only title, they opened with a noticeable jump on the Blackhawks. Killorn, the first Harvard product to score in a Final, needed just 4:31 to get the Lightning on top with an exceptional backhand redirect of Anton Stralman’s shot.
NOTES: Tampa Bay lost for the first time in the postseason after scoring the game’s first goal, dropping to 9-1. … Chicago scratched F Bryan Bickell with an undisclosed injury and dressed Kris Versteeg, who was in Toronto on Monday for the birth of his first child, son Jaxson. Versteeg went headfirst into Crawford’s post in the second period, but got a penalty for goalie interference. … Tampa Bay was the NHL’s best home team during the regular season, and Chicago was the best on the road. The Lightning led the league in goals, and the Blackhawks shared the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. … Chicago F Brad Richards mostly got a warm reception in his return to Tampa, where he won the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy during the Lightning’s title run. Richards was traded in 2008.
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