CHICAGO, IL There were shots from all over and the Blackhawks could simply not get the puck out of the zone. After denying Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford stoned Steven Stamkos on the doorstep. The horn sounded and everyone exhaled. The Blackhawks survived the frenzy of shots from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final minute to even the best of seven series with a 2-1 win at United Center.
Corey Crawford made 24 saves in the victory with eight coming in the waning moments of the game and Brandon Saad added what proved to be the game winning goal 6:22 into the 3rd period, his 8th of the playoffs.
Blackhawk coach Joel Quenneville made some pregame adjustments by inserting Kris Versteeg back in to the lineup for Bryan Bickell, the 2013 Stanley Cup hero, who has not scored all postseason. Kimmo Timonen also made his first appearance in a Stanley Cup final game since 2010, 5 years ago to the date when Patrick Kane beat Timonen along the wall with the rest being history.
The Blackhawks struggled in the first period putting just two shots on Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy who got the start in place of Ben Bishop who missed the game due to a lower body injury. His status for game 5 is unknown. The Blackhawks got on the board first when Jonathon Toews drove to the net and knocked in a rebound after Marian Hossa’s shot from the point deflected off Patrick Sharp and write to the stick of Toews. Five minutes later after Trevor van Reimsdyk failed to clear the puck , Alex Killorn beat Corey Crawford after a beautiful pass behind the net from Valterri Filppula.
Brandon Saad gave the Blackhawks the lead again in the 3rd after driving hard to the net and knocking in his own rebound between the legs of Vasilevskiy to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. Tampa had many chances late in the 3rd. Steven Stamkos missed an open net just wide and Corey Crawford came up large stopping every last shot, redirect that Tampa fired at him.
The Blackhawks looked out of gas for a majority of the game. Failure to hold on to the puck and maintain zone pressure was evident and Tampa possessed the puck well. Patrick Kane failed to score but did puck up an assist on Saad’s goal.
Duncan Keith played well and even Kimmo Timonen who nearly scored his first goal in more than a year rang a slapper off the post.
Game 5 is Saturday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa.