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For the first few moments of the Blackhawks’ 5-3 win over the Lightning, it looked like it was going to be a laugher for Tampa. The Lightning controlled the early play, and converted on a power-play goal just 3:20 into the game, as Anthony Cirelli beat Petr Mrazek with a one-timer. However, moments later the Blackhawks would respond.
Philipp Kurashev took a puck from behind the Tampa net, walked out in front, and fed the puck over to Connor Bedard, who scored his first of two goals on the night.
Nikita Kucherov put the Lightning up 2-1 just under seven minutes later with his 11th (!) goal of the season, but that would be it for Tampa until late in the third. The Hawks got three consecutive goals from Kevin Korchinski, Tyler Johnson and another from Bedard before the first period ended. For Korchinski, it was the first goal of his NHL career.
Corey Perry, who was honored by the Lighting for his time in Tampa, scored the lone-goal of the second period. Perry redirected what looked like a hat-trick goal for Bedard. Some fans even threw hats onto the ice thinking it was Bedard’s goal.
In the third period, Steven Stamkos cut the Hawks lead to 5-3, but that’s the last goal Tampa would score, as the Hawks held on, improving to 5-7-0 on the season.
In the win, Petr Mrazek stopped 30 of 33 Lighting shots, with 16 of them counting as “high danger.”
Injury-wise, Taylor Hall, Andrea Athanasiou, and Jarred Tinordi all left the game. While there was no official injury update, Luke Richardson said Hall’s injury probably looked worse than it was, while Andreas Athanasiou was also ambulatory after the game. We’ll know more over the weekend.
Mario: Keeping their Foot Down
It was refreshing to see the Blackhawks not only respond to allowing the first goal of the game, but respond emphatically. After the Lightning took an early 1-0 lead, it was the Blackhawks coming back to tie the game and then eventually come back to take a 3-2 lead and later a 4-2 lead after the first period.
If you told me before the game that there would be six goals split in the first period, I would have assumed the Blackhawks would have been down 5-1. This hasn’t been a normal thing for the Blackhawks this season, playing with a lead. Tonight was their fifth win of the season, but just the second time they’ve come out of a first period with a lead. In both of those games, they’ve won.
Chicago has to learn these lessons when they can about keeping their foot on the pedal when they get the chance to have a lead in a game. They are not a team good enough to get out the a two or three-goal lead and coast. Even tonight, when the game was 5-2, it wasn’t a fully safe feeling against a high-powered Lightning team. But the more this team can build confidence with performances like tonight and make the most of them by coming away with wins and examples of how to play with leads, the more it will become commonplace.
Jay’s Hit: First of Many for Korchinski
Lost in Connor Bedard-mania has been the steady and impressive play of 19-year-old defenseman Kevin Korchinski. Korchinski, selected seventh overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut this season and has shown very few signs of struggling. Of course, as with any young defensemen, there have been learning moments, but any thoughts that Korchinski might have to head back to the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds were erased quickly.
Korchinski is second on the team in average ice-time behind only Seth Jones. Jones, who played over 31 minutes in Thursday’s win, averages 25:25 per game. Korchinski is already playing an impressive 19:40, and that’s with very little penalty kill time.
Years ago, a scout told me that with young defensemen, it might look like they’re holding their own, but below the surface, they’re floundering. This has not been the case with Korchinski. He’s looked NHL ready from jump, and his combination of speed, size, vision and skating ability make him a fascinating prospect. Luke Richardson raves about his game, and when in envision him filled out into his full NHL size, the sky is the limit. Korchinski has the potential to be a multi-time All Star, but first things first. He’s in a great situation, with Bedard taking so much of the spotlight off of him. While his great moments, like tonight, might get lost in a great Bedard performance, his down moments will as well.
Greg: Connor Bedard Explodes for First Multi-Point Game
Nobody in the right mind would call Bedard’s start in the NHL disappointing, with five goals and seven points in his first 11 games. However, we have all been waiting for him to have one of those games where he just dominates. Maybe it was because of all the moms in the crowd. Maybe it was playing Hulk Hogan’s favorite team. Maybe it was because Tanner Jeannot made him bleed his own blood. Whatever the reason was, tonight was the first game where Bedard took thinks over and showed the hockey world what he can do.
The first of the rookie phenom’s four points came by going to the net, getting inside position on Victor Heman and tapping in a great feed from Kurashev. We talked on Wednesday’s podcast that the younger players need to recognize when to go to the net and Bedard picked his spot perfectly. After assisting on the Johnson goal, Bedard showed off his mits and became the youngest player in Blackhawks history to have a multi-goal game.
For a split second, we thought Bedard scored a hat trick on a second-period power play, however, his slap pass was knocked home by Perry. He was set up by Kurashev later in the frame for another scoring chance, but he couldn’t bury the puck.
Bedard finished with two goals, two assists, five shots on goal, nine shot attempts, a hit, and a takeaway. He had a 55.0 CF% at 5v5 and had the highest game score of any Blackhawk this season. A heck of a game. Now let’s roll it over to Sunday.
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