Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was one of the best playoff hockey games in a long time. There were heart stopping saves, bone-jarring hits, over a 100 shots, and 112 minutes and 8 seconds of action. Much of the United Center was on edge after the Boston Bruins took a 3-1 lead with 13:51 left in the third period, thinking Boston was going to skate off the ice with a 1-0 series lead. Claude Julien’s squad was the superior team during the first 46:09 of regulation, but the Chicago Blackhawks stormed back to crush the spirits of Boston’s players and fans.
It took less than two minutes for forwards Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw to chip away at a Bruins 3-1 lead. Bolland one-timed a perfect pass from Shaw past Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask, bringing Chicago within one goal with 12 minutes left in regulation. Shortly after, defenseman Johnny Oduya’s slapshot was redirected off a Bruins’ skate into the back of the net. A comfortable 3-1 lead was erased in a matter of 4 minutes and 14 seconds. Boston’s morale began to break.
The Blackhawks dominated the third period, outshooting Boston 15-8 in the process, but it didn’t last. The Bruins came roaring back in the first overtime session. Boston increased their level of physicality and picked up the slack on offense, outshooting Joe Quenneville’s team 12-8. The Blackhawks would have lost the game if it wasn’t for the opportunistic play of Corey Crawford and his defense.
Additionally, the Bruins suffered a big blow in the first overtime when forward Nathan Horton was hurt with 12:09 left in the period. Horton didn’t end up returning; he went to the locker room with an “unspecified injury.”
The Bruins couldn’t put away the Blackhawks during the first overtime despite dominating the pace of play. Chicago got away with one and they know it. But no matter how hard they tried, the 2011 Stanley Cup champs couldn’t seal the deal. At this point, Boston’s starting to feel down in the dumps and fatigue is becoming a factor.
The second overtime brought as much drama as the first. Fatigue played a role in the action as both teams were feeling weary, especially Boston. Julien was forced to switch to a three line rotation after Horton was taken out. The gameplay was fairly even during the second overtime. Both teams generated golden scoring chances but failed to convert.
Boston had a power-play chance with less than a minute left in the second overtime. They sustained heavy pressure and possession in Chicago’s zone, when Zdeno Chara’s blue-line shot was redirected by Jaromir Jagr, only to cleanly strike the post behind Crawford with seconds remaining in the period. Frustration started to become evident in the Bruins’ play and demeanor as they walked towards the locker room.
The third overtime period started off with the Blackhawks killing the remaining 1:07 left on their second too many men on the ice penalty of the game. Both teams were searching for any defensive gap they could exploit. Everyone was gassed at this point. Play was a slightly sluggish until midway through the period when Crawford blocked Tyler Seguin’s backhand shot and Jonny Oduya made a game-saving pokecheck as the puck found Bruins winger Kaspars Daugavins, who was about to cash-in on a wide-open net.
At this point Boston was down in the dumps. They couldn’t put the puck past Crawford despite a slew of brilliant scoring chances. Chicago sensed that victory was within their grasp. Within three minutes of Oduya’s sensational pokecheck, the Blackhawks finally finished the game off on a Michal Rozsival slapshot that was redirected twice before beating Rask.
Boston did everything in their power to win this game, and they still came up short. They controlled action for much of regulation only to lose a third period two goal lead in a matter of minutes. The Bruins admirably fought back to create a plethora of scoring chances, but they couldn’t find a way to score. Missed chances plagued Julien’s squad in all three overtime sessions – especially failing to convert on two power-play opportunities.
Crawford and the Chicago defense were in the right place at the right time. Boston’s spirits must be dampened knowing they were 12 minutes away from leaving the United Center with a 1-0 series lead on the road. 64 minutes and 8 seconds later, and suddenly the Bruins are facing their first series deficit of the postseason. It’s a good thing there’s two days in between games because the Bruins need additional time to let those emotional wounds from Game 1 heal.