TAMPA, Fla. — Chicago Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen is shy around reporters, almost painfully so, though the 20-year-old Finn's grasp of English is nearly as good as his grasp of the game he graces with his anticipation and cleverness.
Thrust into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he was poised while scoring a goal and setting up another to ignite the third-period rally that carried Chicago to a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday before a lively crowd at Amalie Arena. Thrust in front of a media scrum afterward, he wasn't so self-assured.
"I'm a lot confident out there than in the media right here. So that's a good thing to be," he said. "When I scored the goal I think the first thing was, 'Oh no, I have to go do media now.'"
Are we that terrifying?
"Yeah, you are," he said, smiling.
Teravainen will have to conquer that fear because he's going to be in high demand for interviews after turning the tide of a game in which the Blackhawks initially struggled against Tampa Bay's speed and didn't get much going offensively.
The Lightning rode the crowd's energy during a strong first period and scored on Alex Killorn's behind-the-back, backhanded redirection of a shot by Anton Stralman four minutes and 31 seconds into the game.
It was a jolt of reality for the Blackhawks.
"It's a new series. They've got a good team," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "They came out hard and got the first goal. It was close. They had a few shots and they got the crowd behind them. We've played in a lot of hectic buildings this year in these playoffs and I thought we did a good job dealing with that as the game went on."
They were patient and poised — and fortunate when goaltender Corey Crawford stopped Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan on a breakaway at 11:38 of the third period. Soon afterward Teravainen took over, displaying the skill that led the Blackhawks to choose him 18th overall in the 2012 entry draft.
His shot from the top of the left circle snaked past a screened Ben Bishop at 13:28 to forge a tie, and on his next shift he forced Tampa Bay to turn the puck over and prodded it to teammate Antoine Vermette, who whipped a shot past Bishop at 15:26.
"He sees the ice really well and at such a young age," teammate Marian Hossa marveled. "Having a big game like this is amazing.
"He's so calm. He's Finnish cold."
It's difficult to imagine that Teravainen couldn't crack the Blackhawks' lineup earlier this season — he was sent to Rockford (Ill.) of the American Hockey League — and was a healthy scratch as recently as Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Ducks, one of Coach Joel Quenneville's few missteps. Now, it's difficult to imagine the Blackhawks without Teravainen, whose performance allowed them to win their first playoff game this spring in which Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were held without a point.
"I knew I would have to be patient," Teravainen said of his development. "I'm a young guy. I have to get stronger, of course. It was a good start for me to start the season in the AHL and get used to the size of the ice and North American style hockey. I finally got my chance and I think I'm getting better all the time."
Lightning players lamented that they sat back too much in the third period and didn't put the Blackhawks away. They had been 8-0 in previous playoff games they led after two periods.
"I think for 45 of the 60 minutes we were pretty great, actually," forward Steven Stamkos said. "We just let a team stick around that's experienced in these situations and that probably knew that if they keep it to one they had a chance."
Lightning Coach Jon Cooper called Teravainen's goal "a seeing-eye single. That goal had eyes." He said that although his team could have cleared the puck out of the zone on the goal and the turnover was costly leading up to Vermette's winner, he otherwise had few complaints about his team's effort. "I think the way I'd look at the game, we didn't really give them much the entire game," he said.
But they gave Teravainen just enough time and space to work the kind of magic that's bound to subject him to more interviews and media exposure.