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PREVIEW: Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks brace for third straight clash

Mar 4, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) skates with the puck against Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) skates with the puck against Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Rubber matches to decide three-game weekend series typically are the stuff of baseball, but with scheduling novelties aplenty during this NHL season influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves facing such a scenario.

And on a Sunday afternoon, no less.

Related: NHL games today – Key dates, preseason and 2021-22 regular season schedule

Host Chicago arguably carries the most momentum into the matinee at United Center. After squandering a two-goal lead in the third period to lose Thursday’s series opener in the final second of overtime, the Blackhawks responded Friday to prevail 4-3 in a shootout, with Philipp Kurashev scoring the lone goal of that session.

“This was a great team win,” said the Blackhawks’ Adam Boqvist, who tallied two assists. “I think we played better (Thursday) night, but obviously good goaltending, and I think we played pretty good overall. These are two huge points for us, but now we’re going to just reset for Sunday. Tampa’s going to come out really hard like they did tonight. We’ve got to be ready for it.”

Tampa Bay has yielded at least one point to the same club in successive games for the first time since Jan. 21 and 23, when the Columbus Blue Jackets followed an overtime loss with a victory in regulation.

Related: NHL power rankings – Avs edge Lightning for No. 1, Kraken debut near top

Lightning leads of 2-0 and 3-2 didn’t hold up against the resilient Blackhawks as Tampa Bay saw its six-game winning streak fizzle.

“We’re not giving up games,” Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat said. “You go down to a team like that 3-2, a lot of teams will just fold, but we’re out there working hard. (Dominik Kubalik) had a nice goal at the end, just hard-working goal, gets to the net and puts one in. That’s huge for us.”

With two goals Friday to extend his point streak to eight games, DeBrincat has been no slouch himself lately. He has scored or assisted on seven of Chicago’s past 12 goals, a trend the Lightning will attempt to stifle.

While Tampa Bay realizes an opportunity slipped away, players also are cognizant they can channel a turnaround. They need only repeat what they did for most of Friday night, when they outshot the Blackhawks 42-27.

“That’s the way it goes,” said the Lightning’s Ryan McDonagh. “More importantly, we were happy with our effort from pretty much 60 minutes there, playing a lot more in the O-zone, not getting caught in our D-zone as much.

“We continue to play like that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night. We need to continue to follow this up here. Can’t just be a one every couple of games kind of thing. We’ve got to make sure that we take the good from this game and put forth right away from the start next game.”

After requiring overtime just twice in their first 20 games, the Lightning have gone to OT in each of the first two games of the series.

Chicago, which snapped a three-game losing streak to the Lightning to begin the season, is 4-1-1 over the past six games.

–Field Level Media

Sports deaths in 2021

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.

Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)

New York, NY — Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor (22) shoots against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor died of natural causes on March 22, 2021. He was 86.

'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler (Boxer)

Las Vegas, NV – John Mugabi and Marvin Hagler fight for the WBA, WBC, and IBF Middleweight titles on March 10, 1986 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hagler won the fight with an 11th round knockout. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Hagler died unexpectedly on March 13. He was 66.

Rheal Cormier (MLB Pitcher)

San Francisco, CA – Pitcher Rheal Cormier #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB game at Pac Bell Park on August 9, 2003 in San Francisco, California. The Phillies won 8-6. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Cormier died on March 8th. He was 53.

Mark Pavelich (1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team)

Lake Placid, NY – The USA Team celebrates their 4-3 victory over Russia in the semi-final of the Ice Hockey event at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, USA. The game was dubbed “The Miracle on Ice”. The USA went on to win the gold medal by defeat. (Getty Images)

Pavelich died on March 5th. He was 63.

Joe Altobelli (MLB Manager)

Los Angeles, CA – San Francisco Giants manager Joe Altobelli argues with an umpire during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Altobelli died on March 3rd. He was 88.

Irv Cross (Broadcaster/NFL Defensive Back)

Pasadena, CA, USA – CBS broadcaster Irv Cross (left) interviews NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cross died on February 28th. He was 81.

Vincent Jackson (NFL Wide Receiver)

Tampa, FL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) is introduced as he runs out of the tunnel before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2015. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson died on February 15th. He was 38.

Marty Schottenheimer (NFL Head Coach)

St. Louis, MO – Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer on the sidelines against the New York Jets at Busch Stadium during the 1991 preseason. Credit: Herb Weitman-USA TODAY NETWORK

Schottenheimer died on February 8th. He was 77.

Pedro Gomez (MLB Reporter)

MESA, AZ – Perdo Gomez of ESPN stands in the stands prior to the game between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Stadium on March 3, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

Gomez died on February 7th. He was 58.

Leon Spinks (Boxer)

Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, works out at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami on Jan. 13, 1987. (photo by Tim Chapman)

Spinks died on February 5th. He was 67.

John Chaney (Temple Owls)

LANDOVER, MD – Head coach John Chaney of the Temple Owls looks on from the bench against the Georgetown Hoyas during an NCAA College basketball game circa 1995 at the US Airways Arena in Landover, Maryland. Chaney coached at Temple from 1982-2006. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Chaney died on January 29th. He was 89.

George Armstrong (Toronto Maple Leafs)

TORONTO, ON – Former Leafs Captain George Armstrong waves to the crowd beside (L-R) Red Kelly and David Keon during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Leafs 64′ Stancley Cup before action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Armstrong died on January 24th. He was 90.

Hawthorne Wingo (New York Knicks)

Atlanta, GA – New York Knicks forward Hawthorne Wingo (43) in action against the Atlanta Hawks at the Omni. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Wingo died on January 23rd. He was 73.

Hank Aaron (Atlanta Braves)

Atlanta, GA, – Atlanta Braves outfielder Hank Aaron (44) celebrates after breaking the all-time career home run record previously held by Babe Ruth at Fulton County Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron died on January 22nd. He was 86.

Ted Thompson (Green Bay Packers)

Arlington, TX – Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy (left) and general manager Ted Thompson after the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson died on January 20th. He was 68.

Don Sutton (MLB Pitcher)

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pitcher Don Sutton of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1977 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Sutton died on January 18th. He was 75.

Tommy Lasorda (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Dodgers former manager Tommy Lasorda in attendance as the Los Angeles Dodgers face off against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles CA. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Copyright u00a9 2007 Gary A. Vasquez

Lasorda died January 7th. He was 93.

John Muckler (Edmonton Oilers)

BOSTON, MA – Glen Sather head coach and assistant coach John Muckler of the Edmonton Oilers direct action from behind bench against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Muckler died on January 4th. He was 86.

Paul Westphal (NBA Head Coach)

PHOENIX, AZ – As part of their 50th season celebration the Phoenix Suns honor former coach Paul Westphal before the game against the Houston Rockets on January 12, 2018 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Westphal died on January 2nd. He was 70.

Floyd Little (Denver Broncos)

CINCINNATI, OH – Running back Floyd Little #44 of the Denver Broncos runs upfield during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium on October 8, 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Broncos 21-10. (Photo by Clifton Boutelle/Getty Images)

Little died on January 1st. He was 78.

Howard Schnellenberger (Miami Hurricanes Head Coach)

Miami, FL – Coach Howard Schnellenberger of the University of Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions in November 1981 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Schnellenberger died on March 27th, 2021. He was 87.