Stanley Cup Recap: Defending Champions On Brink of Elimination

Vladimir Tarasenko's three points led the St. Louis Blues to a Game 4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo: St. Louis Blues Instagram)

Tuesday night, in a first round series that has become one of the nastiest in recent memory, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks were pushed to the brink of elimination by the St. Louis Blues. The night also saw the Detroit Red Wings fall into a 3-1 hole against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pittsburgh Penguins took the lead in their series versus the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks earned their first win of the postseason.

St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks

After winning Game 3 in Chicago, the Blues were looking to make it two consecutive wins on the road and take a 3-1 series lead over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

On the strength of Vladimir Tarasenko’s two goals and a 39-save effort from goaltender Brian Elliott, St. Louis left Chicago’s United Center with a 4-3 win over the Blackhawks, accomplishing its mission and in need of one more victory to eliminate Chicago from the playoffs.

“We just have a belief that we can beat anybody,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said following the contest. “We know we’re up against a formidable opponent. There’s a group togetherness that’s strong and we’re going to need it win this series. We’ve got to find a way to play our best game in the next game.”

St. Louis was first on the scoreboard. Tarasenko scored 14:02 into the first period.

Chicago would strike for the next two goals in the second period off the sticks of Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith. Keith’s tally came on the power play.

Tarasenko would close out the scoring for the period with a power play strike of his own and the teams went to their dressing rooms tied at 2-2. He also garnered an assist in the game, giving him a three point evening.

Jaden Schwartz put the Blues on top with a power play goal just 1:36 into the third period followed by the Blues’ fifth goal from Alex Steen at 4:46. Schwartz and Steen also added one assist each on the night.

Chicago’s Duncan Keith scored his second of the night at 14:40, pulling the Hawks within one but that would be the last goal Elliott would give up.

Other point producers for St. Louis included Jori Lehtera (1 assist) and Kevin Shattenkirk (2 assists).

Those picking up points for Chicago included Artemi Panarin (1 assist), Marian Hossa (1 assist), Patrick Kane (1 assist) and Erik Gustafsson (1 assist).

The Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw added two assists to go along with his goal but he will, no doubt, be remembered for his actions while serving a penalty late in the game.

While sitting in the penalty box, he yelled a homophobic slur at one of the referees, which can be seen on video. It is expected Shaw will be contacted by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety regarding a possible hearing that may lead to a fine and/or suspension.

Game 5 of the series is scheduled for St. Louis’ Scottrade Center on Thursday, April 21st at 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, CSN-CH, FS-MW).

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings

The Lightning and Red Wings engaged in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference series at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena with Tampa Bay looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead over their Atlantic Division rival.

With the teams tied 2-2 late in the third period, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson was assessed a cross-checking penalty at the 15:18 mark paving the way for Ondrej Palat to redirect Jonathan Drouin’s pass into the net for a power play goal at 17:01 giving Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

The Lightning held on to earn the victory and take the coveted 3-1 lead in the series.

All three of Tampa Bay’s goals came on the power play and it was Drouin, who was the star of the game by registering assists on each goal.

“At some point, special teams are going to affect a series and they did tonight,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

Nikita Kucherov also picked up three points on the night with two goals and one assist.

Also garnering points for the Lightning were Tyler Johnson (1 assist) and Jason Garrison (1 assist).

Ben Bishop made 26 saves in the crease for Tampa Bay.

Detroit’s goal scorers were Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist.

Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Brendan Smith were credited with one assist each for the Red Wings.

Petr Mrazek stopped 30 shots in the losing effort.

During the final week of the regular season, Detroit superstar center, Pavel Datsyuk, spoke of his desire to possibly return home to Russia for family reasons after this postseason. Although, he did not address the issue after the game, if the Red Wings cannot win Game 5 in Tampa, Tuesday night’s game may have been Datsyuk’s final game in Detroit.

As mentioned, Tampa Bay can close out the series with a victory on home ice on Thursday April 21st, at 7:00 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, FS-D, SUN).

Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers

The teams split the first two contests of this series in Pittsburgh making Game 3 in New York’s Madison Square Garden a pivotal one.

Pittsburgh inserted rookie goaltender Matt Murray into the lineup and he did not disappoint in stopping 16 of 17 New York shots backstopping the Penguins to a 3-1 win and giving his club a 2-1 series lead.

“I thought he was real solid,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game. “He’s got a really calm demeanor in there. He was tracking the puck well. When he needed to make the timely saves for us, he did.”

Rick Nash opened the scoring giving New York a 1-0 lead 39 seconds into the second period while shorthanded but that would be the only goal Ranger fans would celebrate.

Kevin Klein and Marc Staal assisted on the lamplighter.

With the Penguins on the power play, Sidney Crosby tied the score at 1-1 with 42 seconds remaining in the second period.

Veteran forward Matt Cullen scored what would prove to be the game winner for Pittsburgh 4:16 into the third period.

Defenseman Kris LeTang scored into an empty net at the 19:47 mark of the period. It was his 16th career playoff goal passing Larry Murphy for the most by a defenseman in Penguins history.

Also contributing to the win were Ian Cole, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and Tom Kuhnhackl, who garnered one assist each.

The teams will return to Madison Square Garden for Game 4 on Thursday at 7:00 pm ET (CNBC, TVA Sports, SN, ROOT, MSG).   

Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators returned home to Bridgestone Arena after winning both games in Anaheim intent on taking a 3-0 series lead, but it was the Ducks who would put a damper on the Predators plans by playing their best game of the series in front of goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was making his first start of the postseason in place of John Gibson.

Andersen recorded 27 saves, including a Shea Weber slap shot that went off his mask, and Anaheim received goals from Jamie McGinn, Rickard Rakell and Chris Stewart en route to a 3-0 win.

“We wanted to get back into the series. It was a huge, huge, game for us so we came in ready to play in the first (period) and did some of the things right that we wanted to improve on from the last two games.” said Andersen, who improved his career playoff record to 15-7.

The victory was the first of the playoffs for the Ducks and cut the Predators series lead to 2-1.

Stewart added an assist resulting in a two point night for the forward.

Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Getzlaf, Sami Vatanen, Corey Perry and Hampus Lindholm contributed one assist each for Anaheim.

The clubs will return to action for Game 4 of the series on Thursday, April 21st at Bridgestone Arena at 8:00 pm ET (NHLN, FX-CA, TVA Sports 3, PRIME, FS-TN).

Stat of the Night:

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with five goals in this postseason. He is one goal shy of Tampa Bay’s franchise record for scoring the most goals in one series.

Follow ESPN New Hamphsire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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