Lightning learn a lesson against Chicago in Stanley Cup opener

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Were you watching, class?

Did you pay attention?

Did you learn the lessons that your bigger, older compatriots had to teach? Did you do your homework?

Wednesday night at the Stanley Cup Finals was like that. It was a blackboard lesson. It was pay attention and learn. It was a follow-the-leader, learn-from-your-elders kind of night on the ice.

And for the Lightning, the main lesson was this:

Forget about that prevent defense, OK?

The Lightning got caught in trying to0 hard to protect a lead and not enough to lengthen it against the savvy Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night. Largely because of that, it let a lead slip through its fingers and turn into a 2-1 loss in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh, the truth is that Tampa Bay might never have scored enough to win this game. But it had a shot three-fourths of the way through the final period until Chicago scored two goals in less than two minutes to salvage the game. It was the kind of game that the Blackhawks have won often, and it is part of the reason they are after their third title in six seasons.

“We sat back a little too much in the third period and let them take over,” said Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman. “We were the better team for a lot of minutes. You just have to play 60 minutes.”

And again.

“We sat back a little too much,” said Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos. “We didn’t give them much. … We pretty much didn’t give them a lot of time in space. Two instances where the puck finds the back of the net, and that’s the game.”

“There was a difference to the Blackhawks in that third period. The offense came alive. Chicago was suddenly more poised, more controlled, more alive. It was a patient team. It was a smart team.

The Bolts? They had chances to stretch their lead from 1-0, but they never could get it done.

“Could we have made a few more poised plays?” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.  “I suppose we could have.  But I thought we had chances to put them away.  We didn’t put them away.

“Once you do that, to me, that was letting them hang around. And ultimately in the end, you know, Teravainen is a seeing-eye single on that one.  That goal had eyes.  Give them credit.  I think we could have got that puck out.  We didn’t.  Then we turned pucks over on that second one. ”

The Lightning did have a fine play on its only goal when Alex Killorn spun and backhanded a knuckling puck past goaltender Corey Crawford.

It’s a bit early in the series for a must-win, but Tampa Bay is in a position where it needs to salvage a game out of its two-game home stand. Otherwise, Chicago would have a chance to close out the series at home.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.