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Blackhawks enter Game 5 still seeking complete effort

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks got the win they needed in Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, tying the best-of-7 series 2-2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that doesn't mean they're pleased with the performance.

The Blackhawks will look to play a complete game as the series shifts to Amalie Arena for Game 5 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Well, I mean, we're in the winning business," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said at a press conference Thursday at United Center. "I don't think you should ever be satisfied with the way things go. I think you want to find ways where you can better yourselves, better the situation. I think after four games there's been some progress, some areas where we need to improve. We know we have to be better. We're looking to get better as we go into Game 5."

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the same rhetoric Chicago uttered going into Game 4 needing a victory to pull even with Tampa Bay. The Blackhawks said they were looking to play their best game, but a day later they're still searching for it in this series.

Despite changes to the forward lines and some minor personnel switches, Chicago was limited to two shots on goal in the first period and had to kill four Tampa Bay power plays in the game. The Blackhawks didn't make rookie goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's night miserable, as some might've suspected it would be, and they nearly allowed the game-tying goal on a number of occasions in the final minutes of the third period.

Goalie Corey Crawford came up with some great saves to preserve the win, but the wild finish didn't leave a good taste in the Blackhawks' mouths.

"We didn't play our best," veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Corey was unbelievable [Wednesday]. He pretty much won the game for us. But at the end of the day, it's 2-2 now. The only thing which matters is a win. We have to realize we have to get better for Saturday."

One thing they did better than the first three games was score first.

Captain Jonathan Toews' first goal in the series and 10th of the playoffs gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the second. Brandon Saad's go-ahead goal in the third broke a 1-1 tie and helped bump the Blackhawks' record to 10-1 in this postseason when scoring first.

They'll push hard to score first again Saturday, especially knowing neither team has led by more than one goal in the series.

"It's really tough for either team to separate themselves from the other in any of these games, which makes for entertaining hockey games," Toews said. "I think both teams are equally deserving so far. I think it's just going to come down to, as they say, who wants it more, who is going to fight and work for those bounces. I think both teams are feeling pretty confident it's going to go their way right now."

That's exactly why the Lightning boarded their plane Thursday without many regrets. They also got what they needed out of the first two games in Chicago: a victory in Game 3 on Monday. Now it's down to two games at Amalie Arena and one at United Center (Game 6 on Monday).

To prevent that game Monday from being an elimination game that could end their season, the Blackhawks probably need to find a higher level of play than what they've shown thus far. If anything, that's the biggest thing they've learned about the Lightning in this series.

"I don't think they probably got the respect around here that maybe was deserved," Quenneville said. "Not seeing them as much as we have in Western opponents, they're fast [and] they're quick. I think we need to be quicker. We need to be more predictable. We got to want the puck."

Chicago won Game 4 despite not having the puck as much as Tampa Bay, but succeeding that way two more times in this series seems highly unlikely.

"They don't give a lot of time, [and] there's not a lot of space," Quenneville said. "That's the one thing we have to be aware of."

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