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In last night’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks grinded out two goals in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

By Patrick Comia

1authorpatrick1 - Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks Take Game 4, Even SeriesIf resiliency was the one word to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Game 3 performance, then last night’s Game 4 performance in the Stanley Cup Final by the Chicago Blackhawks was gritty.

That was the way the Blackhawks scored their two goals in a 2-1 win last night.

However, just as in the previous three games, the Lightning were coming and weren’t letting up.

The difference last night was goaltender Corey Crawford.

After taking heat for losses in Games Two and Three, he played better in his own net stopping 24 Lightning shots, as many were prime scoring opportunities.

Crawford looked like a confident goalie in his crease, smothering loose pucks, limiting rebounds, and challenging the man more.

For the Lightning, it was yet another plot twist to the ongoing drama that is Ben Bishop. As the team was heading to pregame warm-ups, the team was lead not by Bishop, but by a number 88.

No, Patrick Kane didn’t jump over the benches, it was rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

If you recall, he earned his first NHL playoff victory in relief of Bishop in Game 2. In Game 4, he was the first NHL rookie to start a playoff game, since Patrick Roy did it in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens.

For the game, Vasilevskiy kept his team in the game, giving up two goals on 19 shots.

You would think the Blackhawks would pour everything on the rookie, make him sweat, and second guess himself. However, that wasn’t the case, especially in the first period.

The Lightning pushed the pace by owning the first shots of the game through the middle of the period. The Blackhawks did not have a shot on goal till after 8:00 minutes had passed. It wasn’t that they could not get the puck into the offensive zone, though the Lightning did do a good job on the forecheck, keeping the puck out of their defensive zone.

It was that they could not keep the puck in the Lightning’s defensive end.

When the Blackhawks did sustain pressure, it was short-lived. The Lightning defense did a good job of getting bodies in the shooting lanes, having their sticks on the ice preventing passes, and quickly regrouping on the back check when the Blackhawks transitioned.

Despite being outshot in two of the three periods in last night’s game, the Blackhawks stood tall and kept trying to penetrate the Lightning defense. The second period saw the Blackhawks get more opportunities to the net.

The scoreless tie was almost broken by Johnny Oduya, who had his shot ring deflect off a couple of bodies in front of the Lightning goaltender. The shot redirected and bounced off the far post.

But, there was no close call on a goal from Jonathan Toews. At 13:20, Captain Serious scored on a loose puck, generated by Patrick Sharp batting a shot from Marian Hossa. The puck was batted in the direction of Toews, but Vasilevskiy got a piece of it with his blocker. However, the puck bounced right to the Blackhawks captain and he put it past the rookie, giving the Blackhawks the 1-0 lead.

The Lightning would answer back, as been the theme in this series.

The game was tied 1-1 thanks to Alex Killorn.

With 8:13 left in the period, the Lightning made their push and had a sequence of where they kept constant pressure on the Blackhawks defense, pursuing the puck and never giving up. Steven Stamkos kept the play alive, passing to his line mate Valtteri Filppula as he fell to the ice.

Filppula started going behind the net, taking the Blackhawks defense with him, including Crawford. Seeing that, he quickly passed to Killorn, who in skating towards the front of the net and banked the pass into a open net tying the game 1-1 heading into the third period.

The Blackhawks got the go-ahead goal at 6:22 of the period. Off an offensive zone faceoff win by Brad Richards, Brandon Saad took the puck hard to the net. Vasilevskiy stick checked the puck off his stick, but Saad stayed with it. He corralled it and backhanded the puck under the Lightning rookie.

Brendan Saad - Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks Take Game 4, Even Series
@NHL

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper didn’t pull his goalie till there was less than two minutes left in the period. Stamkos almost tied the game twice in the closing minutes.

The first was a chance in front, where he took a shot on goal that went wide right, with help from a Blackhawks defender’s stick getting in the way. The second chance was a play in front of Crawford again.

But this time, he was there to get keep the puck out with his pad.

Chicago Blackhawks Win 2 1 - Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks Take Game 4, Even Series
@NHL

The clock struck midnight on the Lightning, as the Blackhawks came away with a 2-1 win, evening the series heading back south to Amalie Arena. Chicago’s big guns had a hand in all of their goals, which they needed in perhaps a “must-win” game. Instead of being on the brink of elimination heading into the weekend, they have a little more room to breathe.

Game Five gets underway on Saturday evening at 8:00 pm EST.

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I’m a blogger trying to make it in this world. Have been, and always will be, a fan of the NYR and NYG. Writing for the New Jersey Devils cause, well, someone has to do it!