The first period of Game 1 was relatively even, but belonged to the Bruins, who drew first blood on a ripper of a goal by Milan Lucic 13 minutes in. The most surprising aspect of the first was the physicality by both teams. You would think that the start of the Stanley Cup Finals would be a time for both teams to try and feel out the opponent; a passive approach is usually taken in the first 20 minute of the Finals. But both teams came out hitting, and hitting hard. The stats at the end of the first recorded 34 hits in all, 17 for each team.
Both Boston and Chicago came out of the dressing room as aggressors, and it made for a great opening act. Chicago was outshot by three (11 shots to eight), but they had some point-blank shots at Tuukka Rask that could have easily been converted. There was enough to give both teams reason for optimism after the first.
The second period produced a goal for each team and an abundance of penalty-killing for Boston. Milan Lucic scored his second goal of the game on only his second shot, coming 51 seconds into the second period to give the Bruins the 2-0 lead. Before Boston could keep the momentum and run away with the game, Chicago got a goal from an unlikely source to cut the lead to one when rookie Brandon Saad scored his first career playoff goal.
The Hawks had a great chance to tie the game when the Bruins were faced with a 5-on-3 after a penalty to Nathan Horton and a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Bruins survived Chicago’s two-man advantage though, and killed an additional penalty to Zdeno Chara, helping them retain the 2-1 lead heading to the second intermission. Despite not taking advantage, the Blackhawks did a better job of getting shots on net in the second period, and they continued to hit as well. For Boston, Patrice Bergeron’s shot-blocking was a big factor, blocking four shots in the second alone.
The third period would not be the final period of play Wednesday, and the Blackhawks made sure of that with a furious comeback. After Patrice Bergeron scored six minutes in, it looked Boston would coast to victory. But the Bruins two-goal lead was unsustainable once again, when only two minutes later Dave Bolland slapped a shot past Tuukka Rask. The score remained 3-2 Boston for only about four minutes.
With 7:46 left, Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya was able to gather the puck at the blue line and rocket a shot past Rask to knot it up at three. After Oduya’s goal, Chicago dominated the hitting department once again but couldn’t complete the comeback in regulation. Even so, they still had all the momentum going into the locker room, while the Bruins were left to wonder how they lost a 3-1 lead and were forced to regroup going into overtime.
One overtime was not enough to provide a conclusion to this instant classic as both teams skated and shot to no avail after 80 minutes of play. The only major chance of note was when the Bruins went a man up midway through after the Blackhawks were penalized for too many men on the ice. Despite facing a barrage of shots during the power play, the Hawks survived, dodging a major bullet.
The B’s lost a major contributor when Nathan Horton left in the middle of OT with an upper body injury and did not return. After losing Gregory Campbell, it was another crushing blow for Boston, especially if Horton cannot play in Game 2. As for momentum, neither team had much of it entering overtime #2.
Second verse, same as the first. The second overtime came and went, once again, without a goal. A third overtime would be played in Chicago. This frame however, produced some close chances. No chance was greater than with 11 seconds left when Zdeno Chara’s shot was deflected and hit the post, ensuring a third OT. The puck rolled around for a moment but didn’t cross the goal line, giving Corey Crawford, who had no clue where the puck was, enough time to recover and make the save. It was an unbelievable play the hockey gods surely must have cooked up as they waited for another overtime.
If the aforementioned hockey gods had an impact on this game, they sure favored the Blackhawks. Two deflections and a bounce gave Chicago the 1-0 series lead when they ended the game midway through the third overtime. Andrew Shaw was credited with the goal.
As for any takeaways from the game, there really aren’t that many. When a game ends on a double deflection in the third overtime at one in the morning, you know the teams matched up evenly. I predicted a split of the first two games and still anticipate that. Boston needs Horton back because their offense is depleted without him, and he provides a presence out there the Bruins lacked after he left.
We witnessed one of the greatest games in Stanley Cup history tonight, and that’s something that can be agreed on regardless of who you favor.