Tied At Two
There were two over-riding questions heading into Game Four Wednesday night at Boston’s TD Garden:
Will Marian Hossa be able to play?
Will this be a short or a long series?
Obviously, a positive answer to the first could play a significant role in answering the second.
NBC’s Pierre McGuire reported that Hossa didn’t look well in the pregame warm-up. After Monday’s surprise, when Hossa was a late scratch, careful observation of the warm-up was mandatory.
The early returns (not always THAT important in a Chicago election) were positive for the Blackhawks. They pressured the Bruins in their zone, made them play all 200 feet, used short passes and attacked the net. Hossa had a couple of good chances, one from in close.
The Bruins were granted an early powerplay when Johnny Oduya was called for interference at 5:18. All that did was set up a shorthanded goal by Michal Handzus to give Chicago the lead. Saad stole the puck from Tyler Seguin, broke down the right side into the Boston zone and slipped a pass to his left to Handzus for the score at 6:48. That ended the shutout streak of the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask at 109:14, truly a remarkable run.
In his bench interview midway through the first period, Boston Coach Claude Julien wasn’t happy with the way his team wasn’t moving its feet, feeling that the Bruins were doing more to frustrate themselves than were the efforts of the Blackhawks.
That frustration came out later in the period with Boston’s Peverly line mixing it up with Chicago’s Shaw line. That followed a botched 2-on-1 when Paille’s return pass went behind Peverly breaking in on Corey Crawford. The Bruins were granted their second powerplay after that skirmish. The Bruins finally got a shot on net during that powerplay, following Torey Krug ringing one off the pipe. The Bruins tied it with :03 left on the advantage when Saad, who had set up the shorthanded goal for Chicago, could not clear. Peverly picked it up and beat Crawford’s glove. That silenced the Boston Boos with cheers, and put the attack back in the Bruins. It was a vulnerable point in time for Corey Crawford and Chicago.
A penalty on Boston’s Nathan Horton for slashing the stick out of Oduya’s hands, resulted in a shorthanded breakout for Boston, and Duncan Keith got called for tripping Rich Peverly. The first period ended 1-1, with the Bruins coming back after a slow start, Chicago had the first eight shots in the game, and at the end of the period, the shots were 12-9, Chicago.
After three straight low-scoring games, all of a sudden the clock was turned back to the “lively puck era” of the 1980s.
Early in the second, Horton narrowly missed from Crawford’s right on the powerplay. Back at even strength, the Blackhawks bounced back from the end of the first period. It wasn’t long before a Michal Rozsival shot was tipped in by Jonathan Toews to give the Blackhawks the lead again, 2-1. Later, Rask was challenged by Patrick Sharp, but made the stop. On the next Chicago rush, Patrick Kane backhanded a rebound of Bryan Bickell’s shot over Rask to make it 3-1 at 8:41, prompting a basketball-style time out by Claude Julien and the Bruins.
It was perhaps the most hectic period of the series for Rask; he faced numerous rebound chances in addition to odd-man rushes, including a Handzus-Sharp attack later on. He stopped that one, giving his teammates a chance to come back. They did – forcing the ‘Hawks to scramble in their end. With Milan Lucic in the slot, two swats at the puck resulted in the goal which cut the Chicago lead to one, 3-2 at 14:43.
That produced some more run-and-gun – not to the Bruins’ benefit. David Bolland put the puck off the left boards to produce a 2-on-1 into the Boston zone with Michal Frolik and Marcus Kruger. Rask stopped the initial Kruger try, then Kruger flipped in the rebound to make it 4-2, 49 seconds after the Lucic goal.
No time to relax for Chicago: a hooking call on Patrick Kane produced a crazy powerplay chance off the end glass and the top of the goal cage, which came down for Patrice Bergeron, and he beat Crawford’s glove to make it a one-goal game yet again at 17:22.
Chicago survived another near miss late in the period (as a matter of fact, the TD Garden goal horn sounded in error), It was a period applauded by the fans, yet loathed by the coaches. Chicago outscored Boston, 3-2, and outshot them, 13-11. Consider this: in 40 minutes, they produced 7 goals. Game One required 112:08 to do the same.
Early in the third, the Bruins got back to even; Bergeron from the right circle ripped one by Crawford to tie it with 17:55 left in regulation. It required 4:43 to erase the deficit, and Crawford was looking like the weak link, each of his four goals against to his glove side.
With the teams playing 4-on-4, Patrick Kane broke in on Rask, but David Krejci took a hooking penalty to prevent the shot. Kane had a pretty good argument for a penalty shot, but it was not granted. On the ensuing powerplay, the Blackhawks tallied. Patrick Sharp got the rebound of a Hossa try. That was the first powerplay goal of the Final for Chicago (in 15 opportunities), as they took a 5-4 lead.
That was short-lived. Crawford gave up another one to the glove side, as Johnny Boychuk drilled one from straight away, above the circles. It was 5-5 with 7:46 left in the third.
This game was such a departure from the norm, that it seemed as if Edmonton and Los Angeles were reprising their 1982 playoff series. That featured a 10-8 game, along with a 7-4 final, and the memorable 6-5 OT “Miracle on Manchester.”
So off to overtime it went, for the third time in four games, with Chicago outshooting Boston, 41-28 over the 60-minute term. How long would this one go? The teams have played 319:47 (the equivalent of five-and-a-third matches) to complete the four games.
Heading into extra time, Chicago may have had the more tired defense corps, as Nick Leddy had played only 2:37, though he remained on the bench. Meanwhile, forwards Kaspars Daugavins and Shawn Thornton had played just 5:53 for Boston.
Bergeron almost ended it early with a redirection of an Andrew Ference shot. In the high pace early in the overtime, Rask stopped Kane breaking in the right side.
It took a three-shot volley by the Blackhawks to end it and tie the series as Brent Seabrook got it by Rask, with Jonathan Toews tied up in front with Zdeno Chara, at 9:51. At least two games remain!
Now it’s another well-earned extra day off, the series headed back to Chicago for Game Five at the United Center. It all gets started at 7 o’clock CT Saturday on your local NBC affiliate.