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Chicago, Tampa Bay all even again in Stanley Cup Final

Narrow margins: Chicago, Tampa Bay all even again in Stanley Cup Final after 4 one-goal games

Chicago, Tampa Bay all even again in Stanley Cup Final

TAMPA, Florida (AP) -- Four games into the Stanley Cup Final, all that's clear is just how little separates the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

These two NHL conference champions have two victories, nine goals and 24 penalty minutes apiece, while Chicago has outshot Tampa Bay 107-104.

Neither team has led by more than one goal at any point in the Final's first four games, which have all been decided by one goal apiece for the first time since 1968 and just the third time in NHL history.

The Lightning return home for Game 5 on Saturday at Amalie Arena knowing they missed early opportunities to get Chicago in serious trouble in this series -- and they know the fate of other opponents who failed to put the Blackhawks away.

"For either one of us to think we're going to go out there and control 60 minutes of the game ... I just don't see it happening," Lightning associated coach Rick Bowness said. "There are moments in each of the four games that we were in control of it, and there are moments, like the second period last night, that they were in control of it."

Tampa Bay could very well have won all four games but the Blackhawks could say the same thing. Still Game 4 will still be stinging the Lightning and the one they will look back on with regret if they don't manage to win the Cup.

Tampa Bay held the Blackhawks to just two shots in the first period and didn't let up significantly in the final two periods, dominating the puck. Yet the Blackhawks got goals of pure persistence from Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, while the Lightning lamented numerous missed scoring chances.

Steven Stamkos twice came close to tying Game 4 in the final 90 seconds but the Lightning captain still doesn't have a goal in the series.

"When you have teams of this caliber, it's bound to be a tight series," Stamkos said. "We're disappointed about the squandered chance, (but) if you'd have given us a best 2 out of 3 at home at the beginning of the year to win the Stanley Cup, any team in their right mind would take that opportunity."

The series is so even because these teams' similarities have largely canceled each other out, from the flying forwards up front to the uncertain goalie situations in back.

"It's a game of bounces. You just try to work hard and try to get those bounces and keep the momentum," Saad said. "But luck's definitely a part of it. It's a tough trophy to win and a tough series to be a part of."

The Lightning still have the impressive team speed that seemed to be a key factor before this series began, but Tampa Bay has recommitted to the improved defensive game that allowed it to get out of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket in 20 grueling games. Neither of these speedy teams is flying down the ice, instead focusing on responsible hockey.

"We got caught up thinking it would be run-and-gun," Blackhawks forward Brad Richards said. "And if we do that, we just feed them. We've got to be more patient than them."

Goaltending also hasn't been a deciding factor in this series, even with ample reason to think it might be.

The Lightning don't know yet whether Andrei Vasilevskiy will get another start in net after the 20-year-old Russian rookie played Game 4 in place of Ben Bishop, who has an undisclosed injury. Vasilevskiy won Game 2 in relief, and he played well Wednesday in his first playoff start, giving Tampa Bay little reason to worry about the potentially precarious position.

Chicago also got a strong Game 4 from goalie Corey Crawford, the veteran that many Blackhawks fans love to hate until he comes up big in another postseason series. Crawford was benched in favor of Scott Darling in the first round, but has bounced back to win 11 playoff games while chasing his second Stanley Cup ring.


AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.

Updated : 2021-09-25 00:27 GMT+08:00