Saad, Toews Propel Blackhawks to 2-1 Win, Series Tied

In a pivotal Game 4 matchup that could’ve sent the Blackhawks back to Tampa on the verge of elimination, Brandon Saad scored the game-winning goal to send the sold-out United Center into celebration of Chicago’s 2-1 win, sending the series back to Tampa knotted at two apiece. If ever the Blackhawks’ resolve was in question, just watch the highlight reel.

They Kane. They Saad. They Crawford.

Showing true championship resolve for 60 minutes, Chicago managed to close out the fourth consecutive one-goal contest before 22,354 fans, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1968. Saad fiercely served Lightning reserve goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy a wrister which got poked aside by the inexperienced netminder. Somehow, the sensational Blackhawks left winger found the deflected shot and flipped it past the charismatic Siberian Vasilevskiy for his eighth goal this postseason. Jonathan Toews added his tenth playoff goal and gritty defense to round out Chicago’s scoring.

The last minute of play proved challenging, too, as Corey Crawford fought off a flurry of Tampa Bay shots including two close calls by captain Steve Stamkos. The Lightning scored their lone goal on an Alex Killorn shot, his ninth, assisted by Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula although many more chances were created via Blackhawks penalties, but Tampa Bay failed on all four power play opportunities. For the game, Tampa Bay held a 25-19 shots on goal edge but Chicago nearly doubled the Lightning in faceoffs won, 38-20. All three Chicago power play chances were killed by Tampa Bay’s ferocious unit, which has been the case all season long for the Lightning.

Twenty-year old Vasilevskiy became the fourth youngest goalie to start in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the first in 29 years. Ben Bishop, nursing an undisclosed lower body injury from Game 3, didn’t see any playing time and his status for Saturday’s Game 5 is unknown. For the Blackhawks, the series has become the Battle of Amalie Arena, needing just one win there to have the opportunity to close out their third cup in six years back at United Center. Tampa Bay, with a win on Saturday, can close out the Stanley Cup at home but would be hard pressed to get that deep if Ben Bishop isn’t 100%.

Chicago is now 41-14 in Games 4-7 dating back to 2009, but 10-1 when scoring first during this season’s playoffs. Tampa Bay continues to maintain home ice advantage, but with Blackhawks nearly back to full strength, the remaining three games should be interesting. The Lightning are 6-6 at home this year during playoff action; Chicago is 6-5 on the road.

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