The United Center was ready to rock as the Blackhawks player’s and faithful sensed the opportunity that lied ahead. A 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals was within the Chicago Blackhawks’ grasp, but they let it slip through their fingertips. It looked like Chicago was going to steamroll the Boston Bruins early on, but Claude Julien’s team showed the same kind of resilience that fueled one of the most improbable Game 7 comebacks in NHL history.
The Blackhawks were all over the Bruins once the puck was dropped. Most of the first period was played in Boston’s zone as Joe Quenneville’s squad sustained steady pressure throughout the opening period with 19 shots on goal and 16 scoring chances.
The visitors only managed 4 shots on goal during the first period, so star goalie Tuukka Rask needed to save the day. Rask made some tremendous saves that allowed his team to remain in the game. Chicago did have a breakthrough at the 11:29 mark when Patrick Sharp was able to capitalize on a series of scoring chances. The Blackhawks thought they had another goal minutes later, but the referee’s disallowed it because “his intention was to blow the whistle.” Otherwise, Boston managed to weather the storm. Chicago went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead, wishing it was more.
“It’s always nice to get a two goal cushion,” Sharp said in his postgame interview. “We weren’t able to do that, but scoring first was big. We got the building into it. It was loud, we were feeling good, but we didn’t sustain that for 60 minutes.”
The second period was a different hockey game. Boston came out and took control of the pace. They kept the Blackhawks high flying offense grounded by keeping Chicago from getting the puck deep in their zone. The President’s Trophy winners generated a meager 4 shots on goal as the Bruins threw them off their game.
“We had a perfect start to the game, but we stopped doing what made us successful,” Quenneville said during his postgame press conference. “We stood around and they countered.”
Boston’s counter came with 5:02 left in the second period, when center Chris Kelly took advantage of a loose puck in front of Chicago’s net. The Bruins were back in the game despite being out shot 23 to 12 after the first 40 minutes of action. This had to be demoralizing for Quenneville’s team. The Blackhawks didn’t have the same energy level when they took the ice during the second period. Chicago let Boston back in the game after controlling the first period.
The third period was much of the same for the Blackhawks. Scoring chances were hard to come by when the game’s pace slowed down. Boston was more physical at the point of attack and produced more scoring chances than Chicago. Corey Crawford kept his team in the game despite a lackluster performance by his teammates. Neither side could score the go-ahead goal as the game remained tied after the end of regulation. Each team geared up for their fourth overtime period of the series.
Both teams picked up the pace of play in overtime. Each team created several scoring chances that had NBC announcer Mike “Doc” Emerick on the verge of bursting with excitement. But the Bruins were closing in on a 1-1 series tie. Jaromir Jagr’s snapshot struck the post. Nathan Horton’s shot rebounded off Crawford and over the net. Sooner or later one of the Bruins chances was going to find the back of the net.
Brent Seabrook gained possession his own zone with 6:20 left in the first overtime. The defenseman played the puck around the boards to winger Brandon Bollig. Bollig mishandled the pass and the Bruins seized the opportunity. Adam McQuaid kept the puck in Chicago’s zone by dumping it over to winger Tyler Seguin, who made a cross-ice pass to Daniel Paille. Paille ripped a shot off the inside of the past Crawford’s outstretched glove, and the Bruins left the United Center with an unlikely 2-1 victory.
Chicago faltered after playing a tremendous first period. This one has to hurt now that Boston has home ice in what has become a Best of 5 series. Simply put, the Blackhawks let one get away from them.
“We just kind of let them play their game and we didn’t make them earn it,” Captain Jonathan Toews said during a postgame interview. “It’s a little disappointing considering that.”