Everything seemed to fall into place for the Chicago Blackhawks, except for the final score.
They came up short against a supposedly ailing Ben Bishop and lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on a late goal by Cedric Paquette
Chicago outshot the Lightning 38-32, but couldn’t solve Bishop. And just when the United Center crowd was getting ready for overtime, Paquette netted the game-winner on a beautiful pass from defenseman Victor Hedman at 16:49.
The Blackhawks trail 2-1 in the series and will once again have to rely on the resolve that has carried them to two Stanley Cups since 2010 after they let a game that seemed to be theirs for the taking slip away.
They were playing at home after splitting the first two games on the road and facing a goalie who looked like he could barely move in Bishop. A 19-7 edge in shots in the first period resulted in only one goal and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have now gone three games without playing a major role in the final. Game 4 is at the United Center on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead at 4:14 of the third period when Brandon Saad fired in a one-timer from the slot off a pass from Marian Hossa in the left point for his seventh goal of the postseason.
But Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat tied it 13 seconds later when he knocked a loose puck past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford’s glove.
The big question coming in was whether Bishop would be in goal for the Lightning after he left Game 2 in the third period, returned for a brief stretch and exited for good.
Tampa Bay was tight-lipped about his ailment. The Lightning even had third-string goalie Kristers Gudlevskis ride the bus to the arena. But Bishop, Tampa Bay’s single-season victories record-holder, was in the lineup instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He seemed to be struggling to move in net and found himself face down on the ice after Saad got pushed into him and hit him in the face with his left hand late in the second period.