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Blackhawks even series against Lightning, Vasilevskiy

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks faced a 20-year-old goalie making his first playoff start in the Stanley Cup Final and only beat him twice.

But that was enough.

Brandon Saad scored 6:22 into the third period to give Chicago a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at United Center on Wednesday, evening the best-of-7 series 2-2.

Tampa Bay rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 17 saves in place of injured Ben Bishop.

"If you tell me we're going to come in and he's going to give up two goals, that's a hell of a job in my book," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He showed the pinnacle of the sport, that he can play. That's a pretty big achievement for a 20-year-old."

But Vasilevskiy, in his 20th NHL game, could not keep Saad from breaking a 1-1 tie.

Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s shot hit the crossbar and went out of play, setting up a faceoff to the left of Vasilevskiy. Patrick Kane tapped the puck out of a scrum near the faceoff dot to Saad near the bottom of the left circle, and Saad took it to the front of the net.

Saad lost it momentarily but found it and backhanded it between Vasilevskiy's pads.

"I was really pretty lucky," Saad said. "I just saw space going to the net, tried to drive and create some chaos. [Their] goalie made a good play with poking the puck. [It] bounced around my feet; finally found it to my stick. Just tried to get some wood on it and get it to the net and found a way through his legs.

"Really, it was trying to get to the net, create some chaos; it found a way in."

Corey Crawford made 24 saves for the Blackhawks, including one on Lightning captain Steven Stamkos from in close in the final minute.

"This one is a tough one. I thought we had it," Stamkos said. "We had the game right where we felt comfortable, and they get one off a faceoff, a little broken-down play. We'll regroup here and get back and ready to play in front of our fans."

Game 5 is at Amalie Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), with Game 6 here Monday.

"Tampa was the better team today. There’s no question about it but, this time of the year, it doesn’t matter because we won," Timonen said. "Our goalie was good. We get two days of rest and we are going to think how we can play better in next game."

Bishop was injured in Game 2 on Saturday and left the 4-3 win twice. He came back for Game 3 on Monday and made 36 saves in a 3-2 win, though he was not as nimble as he typically is, particularly when it came to playing the puck away from his crease.

"[Bishop] is going to play again in this series, there's no question," Cooper said. "I just don't know which game."

Bishop took the morning skate but did not participate in warmups. Vasilevskiy, who relieved Bishop in Game 2, made his first start since March 31.

"I was just really excited; really happy," Vasilevskiy said. "It's my dream to play in the Stanley Cup Final. I think I look not bad in my first game in two months. I can play better, for sure, but for the first time, not bad."

Vasilevskiy faced two shots in the first period, stopped 11 of 12 in the second, and four of five in the third. He was backed up by Kristers Gudlevskis.

"First period, not too much [action]," he said. "It's not bad; because for me it's like a warmup. But other side, it's tough too, because just two shots. Second, third period was more fun than the first."

Jonathan Toews gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 6:40 of the second period. Patrick Sharp had a mini-breakaway and hit the right post, but Chicago kept the pressure on. Sharp deflected a shot on net and then pushed the rebound wide to the left of Vasilevskiy. Toews was near the far post and directed the puck for his 10th goal of the playoffs, first of this series. Sharp had been playing on the third line for much of this postseason but was moved up to the top line with Toews and Marian Hossa.

Alex Killorn tied it 1-1 at 11:47. Valtteri Filppula carried the puck behind the Chicago net and slipped it past the two Blackhawks defenders who went with him back toward the left post, which he had skated by. Killorn was alone there as everyone's attention shifted toward the other side of the net. His shot was in the net before Crawford realized what was happening and turned his head back to Killorn, who scored his ninth goal of the postseason.

"It's a really fine line," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Tonight, like most of the other games, could have tilted either way. Two good teams playing some good hockey and creating chances. I have nothing that I didn't really like about our game tonight. I'm sure they feel the same way. It's just one of those games that didn't go our way, but overall I have no issue with the game at all."

Kane's assist was his first point of the series after he had 20 in the first three rounds. The goal by Saad was his eighth of this postseason.

"He just keeps getting better," Blackhawks forward Brad Richards said of Saad. "When I first saw him this year, I didn't know he was that good. But he's way better now even than he was in September. Just growing up and getting confident, so powerful. I've never seen such a young kid so even keel. I don't think anything bothers him.

"It looks like he's just out for a Sunday stroll sometimes. He's three strides and he's beating people down the ice."

Two goals in less than two minutes of the third period helped Chicago win Game 1; Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette scored in a 2-1 victory.

Jason Garrison's power-play goal midway through the third period was the difference in Game 2 for Tampa Bay. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had a pair of highlight-reel setups, including one for Cedric Paquette with 3:11 left in the third, in Game 3.

The Blackhawks are 41-14 in playoff games after Game 3 of series with Joel Quenneville as coach. Their history with Quenneville when a series is tied after Game 4 is even better: Chicago has never lost when it is 2-2 since Toews, Kane and Quenneville arrived, and the Blackhawks are 16-1 in the games afterward in those series. Their only loss was Game 5 in the Western Conference Final last month against the Anaheim Ducks, and Chicago came back to win the series in Game 7.

"These guys are way better than anybody imagined at checking and trying to frustrate you," Richards said of the Lightning. "We're learning that mentality that it might be 2-1 games the rest of the way."

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