Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) – Antoine Vermette scored the deciding goal early in the third period to place the Blackhawks within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. Corey Crawford made 31 saves in another stellar performance to lift Chicago to a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Finals on Saturday. Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and will look to capture the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons at home on Monday night. Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop returned after missing Game 4 with an undisclosed injury and stopped 27 shots. Valtteri Filppula scored the lone goal for the Bolts. For just the second time in Stanley Cup Finals history, the first five games have been decided by one goal. The other occurrence came in the 1951 series between Toronto and Montreal. The series has been extraordinarily tight, with Chicago scoring 11 goals and Tampa Bay 10. It is the first time in NHL history that there has not been a multi-goal lead in the opening five games of the Finals. Vermette put Chicago back in front two minutes into the third. Kris Versteeg entered the zone on a breakaway, but had his stick lifted at the right circle. Versteeg stayed with the puck and managed to slip a shot on net. Bishop kicked the rebound out to the slot, where a trailing Vermette whacked the puck into the net for a 2-1 lead. “He’s gotten better every game,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of Vermette. “I thought he had a great game tonight. Very timely goal.” The game-winning goal has been scored during the third period of every game so far this series. Crawford gloved a Steven Stamkos one-timer from the slot just over a minute later. Bishop came up big multiple times midway through the third. He stopped Andrew Desjardins’ wrister in tight with his blocker, denied Teuvo Teravainen’s wrister off a breakaway and somehow kept the puck out during a mad scramble at the side of the net to keep it a one-goal game. The Lightning had their chances down the stretch as Anton Stralman blasted the puck from atop the right circle with 6:33 remaining and Ondrej Palat sent a quick turnaround wrister on net from the right side two minutes later. Bishop was pulled in favor of an extra attacker with just over a minute left in regulation. Following a lengthy attack, the Lightning were whistled for two many men on the ice with 8.8 seconds to play, forcing Bishop back into the net and a faceoff in their zone. “We battled hard and got the game tied,” Cooper said. “It’s unfortunate we fell short in the end.” Chicago tested Bishop early, peppering him with nine shots within the opening five minutes. Crawford nearly cost his team the game’s first goal with an indecisive clear from below his goal line that hit a crashing Nikita Kucherov. The Chicago netminder kept the puck out with a diving stab in the crease, resulting in Kucherov flying into the post and skating off to his bench hunched over in pain not to return. “It wasn’t a smart play,” Crawford commented. “Luckily, it didn’t go into the net.” Another goaltending blunder, this time by Bishop, resulted in the game’s opening goal. Bishop came out to the left circle to play the puck, but crashed into teammate Victor Hedman, allowing Sharp to gather the puck and skate in untouched for an easy goal 6:11 into the game. “I just know there was a collision and I found myself with a heck of an opportunity,” Sharp said of his goal. Chicago generated another quality scoring chance with just over a minute left in the first period. Desjardins raced into the Lightning zone on a 2-on-1 and passed to Andrew Shaw, who lost the puck as he crashed the net. Desjardins followed up the play, but had his soft backhander turned aside by an alert Bishop. After generating just five shots on net during the first period, the Tampa Bay offense came alive early in the second, generating sustained pressure in the Chicago zone due to a relentless forecheck. The Lightning’s persistence paid off just past the midway point of the period. Stralman emerged from the right boards with the puck and knifed across the slot, but had his backhander deflect off traffic in front. Jason Garrison gathered the puck and sent a hard pass to Filppula, who wristed a shot under the arm of a sliding Crawford from a sharp angle on the right side for the tying goal at 10:53. Game Notes The Blackhawks have not won the Stanley Cup on home ice since 1938 against Toronto … Chicago improved to 11-1 in one-goal games this postseason and 14-5 in Game 5s under Quenneville … The team that lost Game 5 after a split of the opening 4 games of the Finals has rebounded to win the Stanley Cup in 4 of the past 7 instances … Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Drouin replaced defenseman Nikita Nesterov in the lineup after serving as a healthy scratch the previous two games.
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