After 53 minutes of scoreless frustration, the Chicago Blackhawks needed less than two minutes more to roar back on top in the Stanley Cup Final opener.
Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored 1:58 apart late in the third period, and the Blackhawks rallied to stun the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Corey Crawford made 22 saves for the Blackhawks, who opened the final series in their quest for their third NHL title in six seasons with more of the clutch offensive play on which they've built a championship team.
"You just learn not to panic and keep working hard," Crawford said. "Stick to your game plan, and we'll get our chances."
Nothing worked for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — but with their two biggest stars off the ice and the clock dwindling, the Blackhawks' role players delivered to crush the Amalie Arena crowd celebrating Tampa Bay's first trip to the Final since winning the 2004 title. Teravainen scored through traffic with 6:32 to play, and the 20-year-old Finn forced the turnover that led to Vermette's winner in the slot with 4:34 left.
"We got better as the game went on," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Huge goal through traffic, and then a nice shot by Vermy. Turned out to be a great third period. ... Finding a way to win is what this team is all about."
Game 2 is Saturday night in Tampa.
Ben Bishop stopped 19 shots and Alex Killorn scored in the opening minutes for Tampa Bay, which appeared to be closing in on a gritty shutout victory. Until Teravainen's goal through a two-man screen, the youthful Lightning gave a stellar defensive effort against Chicago's high-powered offense.
"We really didn't give them much the entire game," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "Could we have made a few more poised plays? I guess we could have. But we had chances to put them away, and that was letting them hang around."
In fact, Tampa Bay appeared to frustrate the Blackhawks to the point of biting: Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman believes Chicago's Andrew Shaw bit him on the torso during a scrum after the whistle in the second period. Hedman lifted his jersey on the bench to show the bruise.
The 6-foot-7 Bishop was a few minutes away from his third shutout in four games, including a tenacious 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers to win the Eastern Conference title last Friday night.
Instead, Chicago's steady work and Tampa Bay's excessive caution finally was rewarded in dramatic fashion.
Shortly after Crawford stopped Ryan Callahan on a breakaway, Marcus Kruger and Valtteri Filppula provided screens in front of Bishop, who never saw Teravainen's shot for his third goal of the postseason.
Teravainen then forced a turnover by J.T. Brown in the Lightning zone moments later. Vermette collected the bouncing puck in the slot and beat Bishop in the top right corner for his third goal, providing a timely return on the Blackhawks' much-debated decision to acquire him from Arizona at the trade deadline.
Teravainen is the youngest player to have a multipoint game in the Stanley Cup Final since a 19-year-old Jaromir Jagr did it for Pittsburgh in 1991.
"It's pretty amazing," Teravainen said. "I know we have a great team. We have a lot of experience, but myself, I'm a young guy here, so I try to bring some energy. Tampa Bay is a really great team. It's a fast game out there. You have to be ready."
The winner of Game 1 has won the Cup in 58 of the last 75 Finals since 1939, including the last three.
Chicago roared into its third Final under Quenneville and its 13th overall after outlasting Anaheim in a memorable seven-game conference final. A roster loaded with championship-winning players and veteran talent made the Blackhawks most observers' favorite in this series despite questions about a defense relying heavily on just four players, including tireless star Duncan Keith, who played 29 minutes, 15 seconds against the Lightning.
Tampa Bay needed 20 games to win its second Eastern Conference championship, but emerged from a Game 7 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with a wealth of confidence in its youthful, gifted lineup.
After a stirring pregame celebration of the Lightning's return to the Final 11 years after winning their only title, they opened the Final with a noticeable jump on the Blackhawks — and Killorn needed just 4:31 to get the Lightning on top.
With his back to the net, the Harvard product made an exceptional backhand redirect of Anton Stralman's shot, swatting down at a wobbling puck and knocking it past Crawford's pad for his eighth goal of the postseason. Captain Steven Stamkos said Tuesday that the playoffs have been Killorn's "coming-out party" as an elite forward.
The Blackhawks increased their intensity later in the period when Kane moved back onto a line with Toews, reuniting Chicago's two best scorers. Yet Tampa Bay kept up its strong positional game in the second period, and the Blackhawks' offensive frustration grew, with Toews growing visibly agitated with their inability to give trouble to Bishop.
NOTES: Tampa Bay lost for the first time in the postseason after scoring the game's first goal, dropping to 9-1. ... Chicago scratched F Bryan Bickell with an undisclosed injury and dressed Kris Versteeg, who was in Toronto on Monday for the birth of his first child, son Jaxson. Kruger played despite missing time last Saturday in Anaheim with an undisclosed injury. ... Killorn is the first Harvard graduate to score in the Stanley Cup Final. ... Tampa Bay was the NHL's best home team during the regular season, and Chicago was the best on the road. The Lightning led the league in goals, and the Blackhawks shared the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. ... Chicago F Brad Richards mostly got a warm reception in his return to Tampa, where he won the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy during the Lightning's title run. Richards was traded in 2008.