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Hawks salvage a point in a wild one in Tampa

10/25/2013

TAMPA, Fla. -- On Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks had their wildest affair of the season, to put it mildly. It all resulted in their third overtime loss of the season.

“It was definitely bizarre,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

They faced their first two-goal deficit of the season.

They failed to score in the first period for the third straight game despite outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning 12-4 to open the game.

They scored in the third period for the first time in nine games.

They even had a puck go past the opposing netminder without ever having shot it when Lightning defender Matt Carle’s pass back to teammate Radko Gudas deflected off Gudas' stick into Tampa Bay’s goal.

All in all, though, the Blackhawks came away on a positive note.

Despite the overtime loss, Chicago (6-1-3) moved within one point of the Colorado Avalanche, who occupy sole possession of first place in the Central Division. The two teams don't meet until a Nov. 19 contest in Denver.

“We’ll take a point, especially the way it evolved there in the third period, a crazy third period, things you’ve never seen before,” Quenneville said. “We were victimized by what we did a couple of times, but we were fortunate to get that one at the end as well.”

Despite trailing 1-0 after the first period, five different players would eventually score for the Blackhawks. Two of those goals came in the third period, albeit one on the bizarre occurrence with the Lightning that was credited to Jonathan Toews.

The third period had been a point of contention for the Blackhawks, who entered Thursday’s contest having been outscored 8-0 in the final frame over the past eight games.

“The positive is that we were able to do something in the third,” said Patrick Kane, who scored his fifth goal of the season and his first since Oct. 12 against the Buffalo Sabres. “I thought we created a lot of shots, a lot of chances. It’s nice to score a lot of goals. We just have to find a way to keep it out of the net.”

Against the Lightning, the Blackhawks finished the second period in a 3-3 tie and took the lead early in the third period when Kane’s wrist shot from the left slot on a power play deflected off Andrew Shaw’s stick. The Lightning evened the game at the 11:03 mark when defenseman Victor Hedman finished a nice pass from Martin St. Louis with a slap shot past Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Lightning seemed to be on the verge of a regulation victory when Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos took a pass off a faceoff during a power play and rifled a shot through traffic past the former Lightning goalie. The Blackhawks, though, were bailed out seconds later when the Lightning afforded them a gift, only to have Lightning captain St. Louis cap a wild one with the game winner 1:16 into overtime.

“You can always look for positives, but it’s not a game that we’re happy about, giving up that many goals for one thing, and too many changes in momentum for our liking,” Blackhawks defender Duncan Keith said. “But you could argue that their third period slipped away and we made opportunities happen. It’s not the type of game we want to play, but you’re always happy to get points in this league.”

An unhappy homecoming: Khabibulin started for the second time this season after securing a win on Oct. 11 against the New York Islanders. The former Lightning goalie did not fare well in front of 18,820 fans at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where seemingly half were dressed in Blackhawks red. Despite the Blackhawks outshooting the Lightning 43-25, Khabibulin had four of the six goals pass through the five hole. Despite the poor outing, Quenneville wasn’t worried about the 40-year-old veteran. “He’ll be better going forward.”

Suddenly, first period has become a problem as well: Entering Thursday’s game against the Lightning, the major flaw in the offense had been a third-period drought with the Hawks having been outscored 8-0 in the final frame over the past eight games. While the Blackhawks finally tallied a goal in the third period, their scoreless effort in the first period against the Lightning marked their third straight contest without a goal to open the game. Chicago has scored just nine goals in the first period this season, but the Hawks are actually dominating the opening period in terms of shots, with 126 shots versus 65 by their opponents. They’ve been outshot twice in the first period, once in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, and the other in their opener against the Washington Capitals, which turned into a stunning 6-4 win.