TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning have consistently been able to start games in command of their opponents this season which has been a consistent effort to procure a win or gain at least a point in overtime.
However, the Chicago Blackhawks and 18-year-old rookie Connor Bedard had other plans for Thursday night’s script at Amalie Arena.
Bedard scored four points in helping the Blackhawks with two goals and two assists as Chicago won its third game in its last five, 5-3 over the Lightning.
He became the third youngest player to record a four-point game in NHL history.
“He’s a good player and don’t get me wrong but we just gave it to them,” said Lightning defenseman Anthony Cirelli. “It was totally on us, he didn’t pull it out of his … you know.”
Cooper was smarting over the Lightning’s lack of intensity and ability to regain its composure once Chicago started to threaten
“We had egregious turnovers, lack of execution, and in the end, we just gave them freebies,” said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. “This is a tough league to win in if you’re just going to do that.”
Cirelli and Sergei Kucherov scored a pair of goals to pace the Lightning to a 2-1 lead at the 12:31 mark of the second period, but then the Blackhawks struck.
Chicago scored three goals in the last 3:17 of the second period as the Blackhawks took advantage of Lightning runners in picking up their third win in the last five outings on Thursday night.
“We had the momentum in this game clearly the first 10-12 minutes or whatever it was and we gave the momentum back with our self-inflicted errors,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
Two turnovers in the neutral zone were a major issue as they led to Blackhawks’ goals.
Chicago center Rick Foligno blocked a puck in the neutral zone as Bedard received the pass and he fed Tyler Johnson on the right side. Johnson gave the ‘Hawks a 3-2 lead at 17:38 as he took advantage of Tampa Bay with the transition off a turnover.
At 19:50 in the second, Chicago gained separation as Foligno corralled an errant puck and fed Bedard, who also crashed the right side of the net. Once he faked a shot toward Tampa Bay goalie Jonas Johannson and scored on a shot to his left.
Bedard seemingly controlled the game with the quick strike which flipped the momentum for the rest of the evening and then a pesky Chicago defense curtailed any Lightning hopes of a come-from-behind victory.
“Then give them credit,” said Cooper. “ They had to come out and just protect the lead and if there was one disappointing part to the game, it was our lack of pushback in the last two periods. That was tough.”