This wasn’t the way the Blackhawks wanted to start this final week of the regular season, especially playing at home.
The 2-0 shutout loss, which was 1-0 until the Lightning scored an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining to seal the deal, means the Hawks could be only one point ahead of Calgary and three ahead of Dallas if both of those teams win their games later this evening; both are leading in the second period as of this writing.
The Blackhawks peppered Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with 31 shots, but he turned all of them away for his first shutout of the season. Corey Crawford was nearly as good, and the Hawks defense kept Tampa Bay from making many shots at all — only 14. But one of them, a tip-in by Vincent Lecavalier in the first period, was the difference in the game.
The Blackhawks will face the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday night and then return home to play the St. Louis Blues at the UC the next night; the Wednesday date is a national-TV game on Versus.