SPORTS

Cedric Paquette, Lightning forward, scores Game 3 winner

06/09/2015 02:23 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
​Who said Tampa centre Cedric Paquette wouldn't make an impact in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Chicago, with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville afforded last line change?

In Games 1 and 2, Tampa Bay bench boss Jon Cooper matched Paquette, who bounced between the Lightning and their American Hockey League affiliate earlier this season, against Jonathan Toews.

All the little-known Paquette and his linemates J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan did against one of the NHL's top two-way forwards was limit Toews to one point. Paquette also had five hits and two blocked shots in two contests.

On Monday, the 21-year-old posted three shots, six hits, one blocked shot and his first post-season game-winning goal in 25 starts with three minutes 11 seconds left in regulation. Of Paquette's 15 NHL goals including regular season and playoffs, three are game winners.

His second goal on six shots in the series was a thing of beauty.

With six-foot-six Tampa defenceman Victor Hedman skating toward the left corner and using his long reach to shield the puck from fellow blue-liner Brent Seabrook, Paquette gained body position in the slot against Chicago defenceman Kyle Cumiskey and redirected Hedman's perfect centring feed into an open net past goalie Corey Crawford.

And Toews?

He did a little of everything except score or set up a goal, managing four shots, two missed shots and a hit while winning 18 of 25 faceoffs (72 per cent) in 21:08 of ice time.

Back to Paquette, a 30-goal scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2011-12 who found the net 20 times last season for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.

He scored 12 goals with the Lightning this season and became the third rookie in franchise history to record a hat trick, notching three goals on Jan. 29 in a 5-1 win over Detroit on the heels of a 29-game goal-less drought.

But for the Cup final, Paquette has drawn the toughest defensive assignment and shone. Cooper didn't tell his player he would be covering Toews, the 2010 playoff MVP, until just before the puck dropped to start the series because he didn't want Paquette overanalyzing his job against a four-time all-star.

However, it appears Toews is the frustrated player, the one talking it up on the bench in an attempt to get his teammates, and perhaps himself, to raise the level of play.

What's more impressive is that Paquette, the kid from Gaspe, Que., is making a name for himself while reportedly dealing with a broken finger.

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