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Richards captains a winning ship in Game 4

Saturday, 06.05.2010 / 1:36 AM / 2010 Stanley Cup Final - Blackhawks vs. Flyers

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Richards captains a winning ship in Game 4
While Chicago's Jonathan Toews was dominant only in the faceoff circle, Mike Richards had a goal and led the Flyers to victory in Game 4.
PHILADELPHIA --  In many ways, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews are mirror images of each other. But in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, only one captain had a winning reflection.
 
Richards made an outstanding play to score the game's first goal, won 13 of 26 faceoffs and anchored a penalty-killing unit that held the high-scoring Blackhawks' power-play unit to only a 5-on-3 goal.
 
Toews was his usual dominant self in the faceoff circle, winning 24 of 33 draws -- including 10 of 14 against Richards -- but was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-2.
 
Neither player had contributed much offensively coming into the game, with each registering just one assist. But when the Flyers needed their captain the most, he stepped up, stealing the puck off Niklas Hjalmarsson's stick behind the Chicago goal and flipping a quick backhand on net that goalie Antti Niemi couldn't stop 4:35 into the game -- just five seconds into the Flyers' second power play.
 
It was the kind of hard-nosed, never-give-up kind of play that has defined Richards' career -- Chicago controlled the faceoff, with John Madden beating Jeff Carter cleanly and winning the puck straight back to Hjalmarsson. What could have been an easy clear ended up changing the course of the game.
 
"That's his style of hockey, never quit," linemate Simon Gagne said. "At that point, they won the faceoff on the power play, their ‘D' thought he had plenty of time, but Mike never quits and that's a typical goal by him."
 
"I think that tenacious mentality is what we need to feed off of, and certainly that first goal was something we can feed off of," defenseman Chris Pronger added. "Just being relentless on the forecheck, playing physical and making smart plays with the puck. Everybody feeds off of that and certainly he led in that department."
 
Richards said the goal inspired him and made him feel pretty good about himself.
 
"I didn't think we were playing poorly," he said of his line, "just not creating as much and not having the energy like we did in the previous series. So it was nice to obviously contribute."
 
Contributing is something Toews is trying to do for his team, but again it didn't work. He had just three shots in 20:58 of ice time, though did make a nice screen in front of Flyers goalie Michael Leighton on Brian Campbell's goal that made it 4-3 with 4:10 left in regulation, giving the Hawks a chance to tie.
 
"I've got nothing bad to say about Jon Toews," Hawks defenseman Brent Sopel said. "He battles hard every single night and every single time he's on the ice, no matter what. That's what a captain does. We can't count on him to score every goal. We need everybody doing the same things. Just because he's not scoring doesn't mean he isn't doing a great job in other areas."
 
Toews said he wasn't really concerned with matching Richards on the scoresheet, and Richards said much the same.
 
"I think he is a great player, but I am more concerned about how I am playing," Toews said. "It is frustrating, but you aren't going to sit here and cry about it. You keep going out on your next shift and try to do something. The second you start scoring goals, people get off your back very quickly. You can do a lot of good things out there, but it doesn't mean anything if we don't produce and score."
 
"He's a great player," Richards said of Toews. "He does so many different things than just score goals -- he's great defensively, his hands are so quick on faceoffs. … Even though he might be a little bit snake-bitten, he does so much to help the team."
 
Still, both players are tone-setters for their team. And as one captain went ahead on Friday, his team gained a large measure of the momentum heading into Game 5 on Sunday.
 
"When you see your captain play like that," Gagne said of Richards, "it's easy for the other guys to elevate their games, and that's what we need."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com


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