By Shane Nicholson
It’s been a short shift for Teuvo Teravainen with the Blackhawks, but Wednesday night the young Finn took control late to lead his team to a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Teravainen said after becoming the youngest player to record a multipoint performance in a Stanley Cup Final since Jaromir Jagr in 1991.
“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 former Rockford IceHogs forward adjusted to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s efforts to make Game 1 an end-to-end rush for 60 minutes, slowing play up in the offensive end and finding pockets of space in Tampa Bay’s lackluster defensive line to operate.
His adjustments paid off late in the third period as Teravainen tied the game up with less than 7 minutes remaining before laying on the game-winning assist to teammate Antoine Vermette just moments later.
“He’s growing more confident every game,” forward Marian Hossa said. “He doesn’t seem to have a heartbeat. He’s so calm. He’s Finnish cold.”
The Hawks struggled to impose themselves early on. The opening goal came with the Lightning’s sixth- and seventh-defensemen on the ice, with defensive stalwart Duncan Keith losing a battle deep in the Hawks’ zone before Alex Killorn netted to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
From there it seemed an effort to stabilize the ship. The Blackhawks generated limited odd man rushes and sometimes looked lost on the power play, creating few scoring opportunities as the time ticked away.
But the Lightning were unable to capitalize on their early game success as Chicago goalie Corey Crawford set up a wall in front of the Blackhawks’ net, making a collection of saves throughout the second and third periods.
Try as they might, Tampa Bay were unable to break down the 2013 Cup-winning goaltender.
“For most of the game, we saw we can hang, and we can be better,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “You’ve got to go through these situations to learn from them. It comes down to the small details, and it comes down to a bounce.”
But it wasn’t a bounce that sealed the deal for the Blackhawks – it was the calm hand of the young Teravainen who proved the difference.
His goal to tie the affair wasn’t one that came from nowhere, nor was it one everyone saw coming from the first-year NHLer.
The former IceHog latched onto a puck just above the left circle and fired in a quick wrister, catching Tampa Bay goal Ben Bishop covered by a screen. It was 1-1 and the Hawks suddenly looked like a team that was out to settle this in short order.
Just over 90 seconds later Teravainen found the puck on his stick again above the right circle, but this time, instead of firing on a screened Gibson again, he laid it off to Vermette who slotted home the winner with the most of ease.
The Blackhawks never looked back, seeing off the game as a collection of talent that has been on this stage plenty of times in recent memory is meant to do.
“We got better as the game went on,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “Finding a way to win is what this team is all about.”
And so it goes for the Blackhawks on their quest for a third Stanley Cup in only six seasons: finding a way to win, this time on the stick of a player who was skating with the IceHogs just a short time ago.