BOSTON – The Boston Bruins’ comeback fell short this time. And suddenly the Stanley Cup final is a lot more interesting.
Brent Seabrook scored at 9:51 of overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 6-5 win over the never-say-die Bruins in a wild game Wednesday night. The defenceman’s shot through traffic that beat Boston goalie Tuukka Rask gives the Blackhawks, who never trailed in the game, a new lease of life.
The teams are now tied at 2-2 heading into Saturday’s Game 5 in Chicago. And Boston’s momentum, from two straight wins built on prickly defence, has been arrested.
“(We were) thinking we pretty much have to win one game (in Boston), so mission accomplished,” said Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson. “And we’ve got two days here to regroup and go back to Chicago and play in front of a big crowd back home. Hopefully we can feed off the energy in the United Center.”
Added forward Patrick Sharp: “Best of three with two home games but it doesn’t really mean much. Boston’s been tough in their building and tough in Chicago. I don’t think it matters where we play, it’s going to be an even series.”
The Bruins threw everything they had at the visitors in mounting a furious comeback but came up short in the third game of the series to go to overtime. Seabrook’s winner was his third of the playoffs and second in overtime.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he felt confident going into extra time, despite Boston’s fightback.
“I still thought in the third period we didn’t give up a ton even though it was a 5-5 game,” he said. “We still had some composure going into the overtime. I thought the bench was where it needed to be and (we) continued to move forward.
“But certainly they got the crowd (going) and we lost the momentum a couple of times. We had a nice lead, but they pressed. Their power play helped them tonight as well. But we did a lot of good things.
“We’ll look at the positives and move forward.”
It was a crazy contest, crammed full of offence and momentum swings bristled with more than a little bad blood. At times, it was like a violent all-star game.
Quenneville’s decision to reunite Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell paid dividends. Toews and Kane each scored for the Blackhawks, with Michal Handzus, Marcus Kruger and Sharp getting the Blackhawks’ other goals.
But the Bruins refused to keel over in trying to defending a seven-game playoff winning streak at home.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Rich Peverley, Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk added singles for Boston, which found itself behind the eight-ball all night. It was a roller-coaster ride for the crowd of 17,565—the 164th straight full house at TD Garden—as the Bruins trailed 3-1 and 4-2.
Chicago outshot Boston 41-28 after regulation time and 47-33 overall.
“We opened up and scored goals. But we gave them some goals,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Our whole team was average tonight … They were better than we were.”
Julien cited poor decision-making and sloppy puck movement in what he termed “a tough outing.”
What kind of night was it for Boston? Hulking captain Zdeno Chara had two assists but was minus-3.
The Toews-Kane-Bickell line combined for two goals and three assists and was plus-7. Bickell and Kane both had assists on the winning goal.
“We knew it was going to be a tough series and an even series,” said Bergeron, who finished at minus-2 despite his two goals. “That’s where we’re at. We never said it was going to be easy. They’re a great team out there and so are we.”
Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, Chicago pulled ahead by outscoring the Bruins 3-2 in a frenetic second period that saw five goals in 10:49 and three in 2:39.
The five second-period goals matched the combined total of Games 2 and 3. And Chicago’s three-goal production for the period was one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to put past Rask in four games.
Trailing 4-3 to open the third period, Bergeron pulled the Bruins even at 2:05 with a wrist shot on the glove side that Corey Crawford might want back. Jaromir Jagr, in his 200th NHL playoff game, drew the assist on Bergeron’s ninth goal of the post-season after some dogged possession in the Chicago end.
The Bruins are no strangers to comebacks. Boston trailed 4-1 with 11 minutes to go in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, only to make history by winning 5-4 in OT to become the first NHL team to win a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period.
Sharp put Chicago ahead 5-4 on the power play at 11:19 just six seconds after Boston survived a brief two-man disadvantage. Sharp stuffed the puck in from close range with Jagr trying to race back in the play from the penalty box, which still had David Krejci in it.
Boston remarkably answered back with Boychuk’s slapshot just 55 seconds later knotting the score at 5-5 before Seabrook ended it in overtime to give Chicago a win it desperately needed.
Teams have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven a total of 229 times and have come back to win the series on 20 occasions or 8.7 per cent of the time. But the only team to do it in a Stanley Cup final was the 1942 Maple Leafs, who famously rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago came out with purpose in the first period and Rask had to stop Marian Hossa, back in the lineup after missing Game 3 due to an upper-body injury, from point-blank range early on. By the five-minute mark, Chicago had outshot Boston 5-0. A penalty to the Blackhawks’ Johnny Oduya seemed like a reprieve but a short-handed 2-on-1 rush with Handzus and Brandon Saad put Chicago ahead at 6:48.
Tyler Seguin lost the puck to Saad near the blue-line, allowing the penalty killing duo to take off.
The goal, the first short-handed effort of Handzus’ 95-game playoff career, ended Rask’s shutout streak at 129:14 and the Bruins’ home shutout string at 193:16.
But Boston began to show signs that it was digging itself out of the hole. A Krejci chance at the side of the net just missed when the puck bounced over his stick and several other passes also just missed their targets in front of the Chicago net.
Peverley then tied it up in the dying seconds of a power play. It was a typical sequence by the Bruins, the product of hard work. Andrew Ference made a nice play at the blue-line to keep the puck in and when Saad couldn’t clear the puck, Peverley swooped in and rifled a wrist shot past a surprised Crawford on the glove side at 14:43.
It was Peverley’s first goal since Game 3 of the first-round series against the Maple Leafs.
As the first period wound down, the Bruins were moving their feet and creating chances. Outshot 7-1 earlier in the period, Boston finished with nine shots to Chicago’s 12 and had a shot ring post after one.
It was a tight second period until Toews, with his first point of the series, tipped in a Michal Rozsival point shot at 6:33 to make it 2-1 past a screened Rask. It was just Toews’ second of the playoffs and his first goal since May 25.
Less than two minutes later, Kane scooped a backhand for his seventh of the playoffs into a near empty net at 8:41.
Julien called a timeout in a bid to staunch the flow of goals and it seemed to work as Lucic pulled one back with his sixth at 14:43, stuffing in a backhand of a Chara rebound after some fierce Boston forechecking.
But Kruger ended the celebrations 49 seconds later, tucking a shot home after a nice setup by Michael Frolik. Kruger appeared to have outdeked himself, but pulled the puck back as it went past the post and stuffed it in.
Boston got the crowd going again at 17:22 on the power play, cutting the deficit to 4-3 with an opportunistic Bergeron goal. A booming Chara shot came off the glass behind Crawford’s goal and bounced right in front of the crease where Bergeron banged it on.
An action-packed second period ended with Chris Kelly hitting the post and Crawford stopping Jagr from close range. Chicago outshot Boston 13-11 in the period.
Badly beaten in the faceoff circle last time out, Chicago held a 25-20 edge in faceoffs after two periods in Game 4. The Bruins led 35-33 after three periods.
Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Bruins had won seven straight at home, outscoring their opponents 21-10.
Prior to Game 4, the Bruins were 11-2 in their last 13 games, with both losses coming in overtime. They had outscored opponents 40-21 in that span.