Blackhawks

Blackhawks earn 2-1 Game 4 win, even series with Lightning

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Blackhawks earn 2-1 Game 4 win, even series with Lightning

Corey Crawford wasn’t thrilled with his last two games.

The Blackhawks goaltender wanted to be better, needed to be better, especially with each of these games against the Tampa Bay Lightning coming down to one goal. So with the Blackhawks getting off to an incredibly slow start and then fighting off a furious Tampa Bay finish, Crawford was steady from puck drop to final horn.

Crawford stopped 24 of 25 shots and Brandon Saad scored the game-winning goal as the Blackhawks held off the Lightning 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks tie the series 2-2 heading back to Tampa, where Game 5 will be on Saturday night.

Saad’s goal, a backhander 6:22 into the third period, was his eighth goal of this postseason. Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of this series, and 10th of the playoffs, about seven minutes into the second period.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It was a night full of surprises at the United Center,starting with the Lightning’s starter. Ben Bishop, who’s nursing some injury, was out. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who came in for Bishop late in Game 2, was in. On the Blackhawks’ side it was line-shuffle time. Among the changes, Patrick Sharp was put on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and Saad, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane – a combination that proved point happy in the 2014 Western Conference Final – were put together.

Whether it was lack of energy or those line combinations, which didn’t click early, the Blackhawks didn’t have the appropriate reaction to the young backup Vasilevskiy taking the net. It took them just over eight minutes to record their first shot on Vasilevskiy – from Sharp – and the Blackhawks had just two shots for the first period.

As Brad Richards observed, “that was probably our worst game in a while for whatever reason.” Good thing it didn’t extend to their goaltender.

“He was the player of the game tonight, obviously. Not just in the first period but that last two minutes we kind of hung on for dear life there. He just stood tall and made big saves and really made everything look pretty simple tonight,” Richards said. “I don’t know what happened in the first. Maybe [the lineup adjustment] was it. I don’t know. For whatever reason we were just stuck in mud again. But Crow came up with an unbelievable game and gave us a chance to win.”

Crawford was at his best in the waning minutes, when the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy and vied for the tying goal. Steven Stamkos missed two great opportunities wide and Crawford stopped everything else.

“I was just trying to take the bottom front of the net away,” Crawford said on Stamkos’ late bids. “He was a little too close to get [the shot] up; he was really in tight. Just make sure there are no holes underneath.”

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Toews said, “We're impressed but we're definitely not surprised that Crow shows up and plays the way he did. We obviously need him that way this time of year, with the guns, the ability, the offensive talent that they have, to make the stops that he made tonight. Obviously we need him to win games like this.”

Crawford was looking for more from himself in Game 4. On a night where the Blackhawks didn’t get the necessary start and didn’t get a lot of offense, Crawford found more.

“That was probably one of my best games of the last few,” he said. “Then again, you can’t think about what happened before. You’ve got to worry about what’s next.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?