BRUINS at BLACKHAWKS
(Best-of-7 series tied 2-2)
TV: NBC, CBC, RDS
Big story: The Chicago Blackhawks knew they couldn't afford to fall behind 3-1 in this series heading into Wednesday night's Game 4 at TD Garden and made sure it didn't happen. The Blackhawks found another level to outlast the Boston Bruins 6-5 in yet another overtime classic -- the third OT game of the series -- that evened things again at two games apiece.
Next up in this Stanley Cup Final is a critical Game 5 at United Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET), exactly one week after the Bruins stole an overtime victory in the same building to even the series at 1-1. After needing overtime to decide four of their past five playoff games, the Blackhawks gladly took the two-day break between games and look to repeat what they did in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Chicago dominated Game 5 that year to go up 3-2 in the and then polished it off with Patrick Kane's overtime goal in Philadelphia to clinch the franchise's first Stanley Cup title since 1961. If the Blackhawks can mirror that effort this time, it'll be their second title in four seasons with a core group of stars that's still in their prime. Conversely, if the Bruins can swipe another road victory they'll head home for Game 6 with a chance to clinch their second Cup title in three seasons.
Bruins: Just when it looked like Boston had a stranglehold on the Chicago offense, similar to the way the Bruins stymied the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, the Blackhawks broke out of their slump in a big way. The trick for Boston now is finding a way to get the tiger back in the cage. Tuukka Rask allowed six goals in Game 4 but doesn't sound rattled, and the Bruins defenders are sure to pick up their effort to slow down the Blackhawks for him.
If they aren't able to do that, Boston at least knows it can stay with Chicago in a high-scoring game. The Bruins beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford five times in Game 4 and have apparently found a weakness with shots to his glove side, but they can't just rely on that to win a critical swing game at the "Madhouse" in the Windy City.
"I thought we gave them a lot of space," coach Claude Julien said Thursday. "When we talk about neutral zone, we're not talking about closing a game up and seeing a boring game. We're talking about doing something so that we can regain possession of the puck. And when we regain possession of the puck, we want to get that puck moving in the right direction so we can get a good pace to our game. Sometimes it's misconstrued, I guess, that the neutral zone is about slowing everything down. It's about taking options away. I think Chicago did a great job [on Wednesday]."
Blackhawks: Every time Chicago has gotten backed into a corner this season, the Blackhawks have responded in a big way. That didn't change in Game 4, when they were down 2-1 in this series and looked somewhat lifeless after a 2-0 loss in Game 3. The Blackhawks weren't intimidated by 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara, weren't rattled by Rask in net and got to the net in waves the way they did for most of the regular season and playoffs.
Now they need to carry the momentum gained from Brent Seabrook's overtime goal into Game 5 to prevent another precarious situation. Heading back to Boston for Game 6 down 3-2 would be almost as daunting as trailing Detroit 3-1, and Chicago knows it. The guys who beat the Flyers in 2010 also know what's at stake in Game 5 of a tied Cup Final.
"For us personally, you know you don't get this far, you don't win a Stanley Cup without being pushed up against the wall and being in a few tight spots," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who scored his first goal of the series and second of the playoffs in Game 4. "That's where we were [Wednesday] night, and for us it was a must-win. We put it all out there, and we treated it as a Game 7. We got the result we wanted. I think there's still some things we can do better, but for the guys in that locker room, we all understood how critical that game was last night. We showed up to play for each other. I don't think the importance of the next one is any smaller than Game 4."
Who's hot: Sharp scored his 10th goal of the playoffs to take the NHL lead in that category. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane added a goal and assist. … Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron scored twice in Game 4 to give him four goals in this series and nine for the playoffs, tied with teammate David Krejci for the team lead and second behind Sharp in the League.
Injury report: Boston forward Gregory Campbell (leg fracture) is out for the rest of the postseason. Forward Nathan Horton is playing through an upper-body injury. … Chicago forward Marian Hossa played in Game 4 despite an upper-body injury that kept him out of Game 3.