(Reuters) - Chicago netminder Corey Crawford stood tall and Brandon Saad scored the winner as the Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to square the Stanley Cup final at two games each on Wednesday.
Crawford was strong early and even stronger in the game’s closing minutes, stopping a flurry of shots including two point-blank rips from Steven Stamkos with an extra skater on the ice for Tampa Bay.
Chicago were outshot 25-19 in the home game.
Russian rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy was the surprise starter in the other net, filling in for Ben Bishop, who left Game Two early and was visibly impeded by injury in Game Three.
The two teams were deadlocked through the first as Tampa Bay came out hard, testing Crawford with nine shots against just two for Chicago.
“For whatever, reason we were stuck in the mud again but Crow came up with an unbelievable game and gave us a chance to win,” Chicago center Brad Richards told reporters.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who along with Patrick Kane has been uncharacteristically quiet during the series, opened the scoring at 6:40 of the second when he tipped in a pass from Patrick Sharp.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn tied it at 11:47 of the same period, before Saad made it 2-1 for Chicago at 6:22 of the third, backhanding in his own rebound on Kane’s assist.
Crawford took it from there.
“I had some quality looks at the end, I just couldn’t find a way to put one in,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters.
“We’re still feeling confident in our group. That game could have gone either way.”
The series now becomes a best-of-three contest as it shifts back to Tampa Bay for Game Five on Saturday. Each game of the series has been a one-goal affair, and no team has held more than a one-goal lead at any time.
Writing by Cameron French, Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Nick Mulvenney