For the second straight round, the Chicago Blackhawks face a 2-1 deficit. After dropping two in a row to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the pressure mounts heading into a series-swinging Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday.
Living up to the grand expectations, the Blackhawks and the Lightning have engaged in three games, each decided by a single goal. Chicago grabbed Game 1, but Tampa Bay rebounded, claiming the series lead with a 3-2 victory on Monday night.
History bodes well for Tampa Bay after stealing Game 3 in the United Center. ESPN Stats & Info relayed past outcomes following a similar tiebreaking road victory:
Yet the Blackhawks rarely go down without a fight. They also lost the second and third Stanley Cup Final games two years ago, only to win three in a row to best the Boston Bruins. While that's not the same squad taking the ice on Wednesday night, this team just overcame a 2-1 deficit during the Western Conference Final.
Another road victory would propel the Lightning one step closer to their second title. In a star-studded matchup loaded with top scorers, goalie Ben Bishop's health remains a top story to watch.
Game 4: Lightning at Blackhawks
When: Wednesday, June 10, at 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Odds to Win Stanley Cup (via Odds Shark, from start of series): Chicago 2-3, Tampa Bay 13-10
Heading into Game 3, nobody knew if Bishop would shield Tampa Bay's net. Despite twice leaving Saturday's win, he started and played all 60 minutes on Monday night.
Even though he looked hurt, the goalie notched 36 saves on 38 shots. Chicago came out swinging at the hobbled Bishop, yet he held the fort down, as observed by TSN's Bruce Arthur:
Not surprisingly, Bishop remained tight-lipped to the extent of his status after the win, but he told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun he had no intentions of leaving another game during the action:
After allowing five goals in each of Tampa Bay's three Eastern Conference Final losses to the New York Rangers, the 28-year-old has notched a .916 save percentage against Chicago. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain scoreless, with Kane still searching for his first point of the series, but the duo won't stay silent forever.
As Marian Hossa told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc, he views the eventful first period as Chicago's blueprint to victory, even if it didn't show on the scoreboard.
"We fired lots of shots right at the beginning and after they played a little bit in our zone, and we stopped shooting pucks at [Bishop]," Hossa said. "If he's not OK, we should take advantage of it and just keep peppering the puck at the net like we did in the first period."
As the Blackhawks wait for Kane and Toews to get going, defenseman Duncan Keith continues his exceptional postseason. Tallying over 31 minutes of ice time on Monday night—Brent Seabrook recorded the second most at 26 minutes and 45 seconds—he fired two shots on goal while dishing out his 18th playoff assist.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago's Christopher Kamka remarked on Keith's bountiful point total:
Oddly enough, the losing club has amassed more shots in every game. Chicago has challenged Bishop more than Tampa Bay has Corey Crawford, generating 88 shots to the Lightning's 79. The Blackhawks have also controlled faceoffs, and they've proven unfazed by adversity time and time again.
Three games through a gripping series, this matchup looks too close to not even up on Wednesday night. In another razor-thin battle, the Blackhawks turn the favor and exploit an uncomfortable Bishop.
Prediction: Blackhawks 3, Lightning 2