Chicago beat Tampa 2-1, even fi­nal at 2-2

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY AN­DREW SELIG­MAN

Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Bran­don Saad scored while goal­tender Corey Craw­ford with­stood a fu­ri­ous Tampa Bay bar­rage in the closing minute as the Black­hawks beat the Light­ning 2-1 on Wed­nes­day to tie the NHL’s Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal at 2-2.

Toews scored his first goal of the se­ries in the open­ing pe­riod. Saad broke a 1-1 tie with 13:38 to play in the third.

Saad drove to the net but had the puck poked away. When he some­how found it again, Saad gave it a des­per­ate back­hand whack that just hap­pened to send it right be­tween the mov­ing pads of young Light­ning goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy.

“I was re­ally pretty lucky,” Saad said. “I just saw space go­ing to the net. Tried to drive and cre­ate some chaos. Just try to get some wood on it and get to the net, and it found a way in.”

Saad was right to refuse full credit for his tiebreak­ing goal. He knows that a few for­tu­nate bounces have been the only dif­fer­ences in four games be­tween two teams that seem determined to take this cham­pi­onship se­ries down to a fan­tas­tic fin­ish.

His lat­est clutch goal was the of­fen­sive high­light of a gritty, de­fense-dom­i­nated night at the United Cen­ter. Corey Craw­ford and Rus­sia’s Vasilevskiy, the Light­ning’s sur­prise starter in goal, both had stel­lar mo­ments.

In the fi­nal minute, Craw­ford capped his 24 saves with a fran­tic last stand. Light­ning cap­tain Steven Stamkos had two golden chances to force over­time, but the Black­hawks sur­vived.

Game 5 is Satur­day in Tampa. The se­ries is now ef­fec­tively a best-of-three, with Chicago need­ing at least one more win at Amalie Arena to se­cure its third Stan­ley Cup ban­ner in six sea­sons. Tampa Bay has home-ice ad­van­tage, but a frac­tion of the Black­hawks’ big-game cre­den­tials.

This is the first Stan­ley Cup se­ries since 1968 in which each of the first four games was de­cided by a sin­gle goal.

“No mat­ter what

the

sit­u­a­tion

is, whether we’re down in a se­ries or a hockey game, we tend to play our best when our backs are against the wall,” Chicago’s Pa­trick Kane said. “Not say­ing we had our best ef­fort tonight, but we still found a way to win.”

Alex Kil­lorn scored in the sec­ond pe­riod for the Light­ning, whose four-game road win­ning streak ended.

They got solid work and 17 saves from Vasilevskiy in place of Ben Bishop, the 53- game win­ner scratched with an undis­closed lower­body in­jury af­ter hob­bling through Game 3. The Rus­sian be­came the youngest start­ing goal­tender in a Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal game since Pa­trick Roy in 1986.

“I can play un­der pres­sure,” Vasilevskiy said. “For me, it’s not some­thing new. I was ready for pres­sure from fans and play­ers.”

Tampa Bay pum­meled Craw­ford with mul­ti­ple scor­ing chances in the fi­nal minute with Vasilevskiy pulled for an ex­tra at­tacker, but the vet­eran stopped them all. He got help from Brent Seabrook, who de­flected a point-blank shot by Stamkos, keep­ing him with­out a goal in the se­ries.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed about the squan­dered chance tonight,” Stamkos said. “We de­served bet­ter. We’ve just got to find a way to score more than one goal.”

AP

Chicago Black­hawks’ Nik­las Hjal­mars­son #4 of Swe­den, and Tampa Bay Light­ning’s On­drej Palat #18 of the Czech Repub­lic, chase af­ter a loose puck as Black­hawks goalie Corey Craw­ford watches dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal in Chicago on Wed­nes­day, June 10.

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