The Chicago Blackhawks started the game on the Power Play.
At least that’s what it seemed like, as for the first 10 minutes of the game the Boston Bruins were back on their heels, unable to get to pucks on the boards, scrambling to clear pucks from the low slot, rarely able to clear the defensive zone without icing the puck.
It’s called taking Chicago’s best shot - but the Blackhawks were far from done, as a game one 4-3 victory in triple overtime will attest. With the win, Chicago takes a 1-0 series lead in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
Unlike the New York Rangers and unlike the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks continued to try and establish their turf after the Bruins started to assert themselves – the neutral zone, the focus of both teams, resembling a Top Gun style dog fight, both teams swooping in and standing up the other at the blue line…
…the low slot in front of both goalies became impromptu mosh pits, elbows and sticks flailing as both sides hacked away at a puck that no one could see but everyone knew was there. None of those scrums found twine on either end, defensemen for each side clearing the crease for their besieged netminders.
And the hitting wasn’t limited to the pits. The referees let the boys play, with the exception of a brief span in the second period that saw a rotation of Bruins head to the sin bin, including an anxiety producing 45 second 5 on 3 man advantage for Chicago, but the time passed with no harm done and Boston took a 2-1 lead into the locker room courtesy of Milan Lucic.
Lucic snapped in a tic-tac-toe pass from Nathan Horton on a play from David Krejci from behind the net for his first goal in the opening period, then a wicked one timer from the slot, taking a perfect pass on his tape from Krejci less than a minute into the second period before Chicago’s Brandon Saad matched it with one of his own a little over two minutes later.
Boston again took a two goal lead on the power play, Patrice Bergeron taking a cross-ice feed from Tyler Seguin for a nasty one timer that Chicago goalie Corey Crawford had no chance at stopping – but the Blackhawks would fight back.
Dave Bolland took a drop pass from Andrew Shawn and snapped it home to cut Boston’s lead to one just two minutes after Bergeron’s goal ,and the Blackhawks tied it four minutes after that, Johnny Oduya firing a blast from the high slot that deflected off of Andrew Ference’s skate and trickled into the goal behind Rask…
…Two overtime periods and twelve minutes later, Michal Rozsivial sent a drive toward Rask from the top of the right circle, deflected off the stick of Bolland and finally off of Andrew Shaw’s knee and the puck found the net…
…ending the game by forcing their way into the slot despite the efforts exhausted yet still physical Bruins defense – Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg leveling the pesky Shaw, who got to his skates just in time to make the deflection.
So now the Blackhawks take a 1-0 series lead into the weekend, giving the Bruins three whole days to think about blowing a two goal lead in the third period – eerily reminiscent of the funk that Boston encountered mid-season with an inability to close out games.
This was different, though. This one got away on a bad bounce, rather than the miscues by the defense that plagued the Bruins in March and April, and only amazing goaltending by Crawford prevented the 4-3 score being in favor of the Bruins - so all is not lost, as the Bruins have another chance to achieve a split in Chicago in Game 2 on Saturday night.
The Blackhawks never did back down from the big bad Bruins, and now have a considerable amount of confidence going into Game 2, but not necessarily momentum, as Wednesday night’s marathon could have gone either way…
…but now the Bruins realize that the Blackhawks are not going to shy away and quit like Boston’s last two foes which should , in fact, strengthen the resolve of the Eastern Conference Champions – but for now they need some sleep, because defending what seems like an endless Chicago power play has a tendency to wear a guy out.