Blackhawks down to survival game against Knights

Blackhawks

The Vegas Golden Knights can become the first team to advance out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of their Western Conference series on Sunday afternoon in Edmonton.

Vegas took a 3-0 series lead with a 2-1 win on Saturday evening.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in his first start of the series, giving Robin Lehner a chance to rest after winning the first two games.

“My plan all along was to play both guys in the back-to-back, and that’s what we did,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.

The Blackhawks have yet to have a lead in any game in the series, but they have played more competitively with each game.

After losing the series opener 4-1 on Tuesday, the Blackhawks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime in Game 2 on Thursday, ultimately losing 4-3.

Chicago gave up a shorthanded goal early in Game 3 and trailed 2-0 heading into the third period before making it a one-goal game.

“We want to be that team who plays to the end, never quits,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think we showed character to come back, but in the end it’s a results thing, and we’ve got to find a way to finish it.”

The veterans on the Blackhawks are wise enough to know that no series lead is safe.

“We’re down three games and we’ve got a game (Sunday) to stay alive,” Chicago forward Jonathan Toews said. “That’s the reality.”

The Blackhawks are hoping forward Alex DeBrincat can end his scoring drought and produce his first goal of the postseason.

DeBrincat, tied for fourth on Chicago with 18 goals during the regular season, had eight shots on goal in Game 3, but couldn’t get one by Fleury.

“I thought I had a lot of good chances, just didn’t squeak through,” DeBrincat said. “(Sunday’s) another day, and it’s going to go in.”

Chicago is due for a good bounce or two. The Blackhawks have hit a post or crossbar 13 times in the playoffs, including early in overtime of Game 2.

“We can feel sorry for ourselves later on. Now is not the time,” Colliton said. “We’ve got to be better than them for 60 minutes on (Sunday).”

The biggest challenge for DeBoer so far has been patching together his forward lines after Max Pacioretty was deemed unfit to play in Game 2, and his replacement, Tomas Nosek, left late in the second period and didn’t return.

Pacioretty, who led the Golden Knights in goals (32) and points (66) during the regular season, returned for Game 3, but Nosek and Paul Stastny were unfit to play.

Patrick Brown entered the lineup for the first time in the series and scored the game-winning goal in Game 3.

DeBoer sounded more optimistic that Stastny could be back for Game 4.

“I don’t believe it’s serious,” DeBoer said. “I would call him a potential option for (Sunday). We’ll see when we evaluate him in the morning.”

–Field Level Media

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