CHICAGO – All those missed shots added up to one big blown opportunity for the Chicago Blackhawks. They couldn’t bury the Boston Bruins in the early going and paid for it in the end.
Now, home-ice advantage is gone. So is their lead over the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
Daniel Paille fired a shot past Corey Crawford’s glove to give the Bruins a 2-1 overtime victory on Saturday night and tie the series at 1-1 with Game 3 coming up Monday night in Boston.
“You’ve got to kind of swallow this one and move on,” said Patrick Sharp, who scored his ninth goal of the post-season. “We know what’s on the line in this series and going into Boston’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for the challenge. We’ll find a way to be better for Game 3.”
The Blackhawks squeezed out a 4-3 triple-overtime thriller in Game 1 but couldn’t pull this one out, with their stars once again invisible, much like their power play.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were quiet again, just as they were in the opener, and the Blackhawks couldn’t take advantage when they had the advantage. They were 0 for 3 on the power play for the second straight game and are now 7 for 57 in the post-season.
As if that’s not enough, here’s some more bad news for the Blackhawks. Teams winning Game 2 of the finals have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 55 of 73 years (75.3 per cent of the time) since the best-of-7 format started in 1939.
The Blackhawks can’t blame Crawford for this one, though. He was just fine in net, stopping 26 shots, after coming through with a terrific performance in Game 1.
The problem was the Blackhawks couldn’t convert and, looking tired late in the game, made a series of blunders, including a turnover that led to Paille’s winning goal. They outshot Boston 35-28 for the game and really came out firing in the early going, blistering the Bruins 19-4 in the first period, but all they had to show for it was Sharp’s goal. Just over a minute after he scored, Jonathan Toews’ wraparound was stopped by Rask. Hossa appeared to poke the rebound in, but the whistle had sounded before the puck crossed the goal line with the goalie covering it.
Otherwise, Rask was simply outstanding in net again, getting through that early siege and finishing with 33 saves.
“It does get frustrating,” Chicago’s Dave Bolland said. “You’re getting pucks at the net. Things aren’t going in. You do get a sense of frustration. That frustration, you have to leave it alone and you’ve got to keep throwing it at the net. You hit a hot goalie, you hit a hot goalie.”
The Blackhawks sure have hit their share of late but simply kept rolling along.
They had won eight of nine after falling behind 3-1 to Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals, taking out Jonathan Quick and the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in five games before winning that epic opener in this series.
They simply ran out of steam in this one.
“We just didn’t continue playing the way we were playing,” Toews said. “We let them have the puck a little bit too often. And you, know, we didn’t hang on to it. We didn’t move our feet with the puck. We were too easy to check.”
He thought the whistle was “a little too quick” on that wraparound. Hossa said he didn’t hear it blow and thought he had a goal.
“I just tried to battle for the space, and all of a sudden, I saw the loose puck,” he said. “I tried to put my stick at the puck. I just felt the puck was crossing the line, and the refs … decided no goal.”
Instead of having a solid lead in the game, they were clinging to a narrow margin. And now, instead of having a big lead in the series, they are knotted up and packing for Boston.
It would help if their top stars converted on offence. Sharp and Hossa each have 15 points. So does Kane, but four of his six goals came in the final two games against Los Angeles. Toews, meanwhile, has found the back of the net just once.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into heading to Boston and how well they play in their building, but it’s not going to change our mindset at all,” Sharp said. “We’re going to play our best game, we’re going to have to. There a good team over there, so I don’t think anyone’s expecting anything different.”