Jaromir Jagr heard the clank of the puck off the post and did all he could to contain his emotions. Patrick Sharp had to move on, too, after he came oh so close to ending Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.
Both players had no choice, even as they lamented the “game of inches” they deal with every day. In this series it’s particularly difficult because the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks appear so evenly matched.
The difference between the Blackhawks being up 2-0 and the teams being tied going into Game 3 Monday night in Boston? “We score an extra goal,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said.
It is that tight after 186 minutes of hockey, as the Blackhawks and Bruins come to grips with the closeness of the Cup final and the razor-thin margin for error.
“No one said it was going to be easy,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “No one said everything was going to go our way. Some moments, you feel pretty darn good, like when we won Game 1 in triple overtime, and (Saturday night) it doesn’t feel good. You’ve got to find a way to get over it to move to the next time you’re going to be on the ice, and not let it affect you.”
It’s the first time in nine years that the Cup final is tied at a game apiece. The last occurrence came when the Tampa Bay Lightning faced the Calgary Flames in 2004, winning in seven.
Before last season, the last time the first two games went to overtime was 1951. It has created plenty of drama and frustration, especially for Jagr, who came close to winning each game.
“I got no problem with it. It’s a hockey game,” Jagr said. “It’s not problem for me. Of course you have to forget about it and try to score next time.”
The Blackhawks know all too well about series hanging in the balance in overtime. They needed it to beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals and then again to put away the Los Angeles Kings a round later.
Game 2 was something of a failure for the Blackhawks, not because it was demoralizing to lose in overtime but because they thoroughly dominated the Bruins for the first period and more but couldn’t turn it into more than one goal. When they figured they did, it was disallowed as referee Wes McCaulley intended to blow the whistle before the puck went in the net.
“It’s frustrating when the bounces don’t go your way, but it is what it is,” Toews said. “We’ll go back and do the same thing and try to find a way to score.”
Even in cruising through a charmed regular season and getting to the Cup final, the Blackhawks understand from their 2010 experience how hard it is to win a title. It takes some bounces and strong goaltending, things Chicago has gotten.
It also takes the ability to shake off an overtime loss and not dwell on it. The Bruins managed to do it after losing in triple-overtime in Game 1.
“Not much can change,” Blackhawks left-winger Patrick Sharp said. “You’ve got to kind of swallow this one and move on. 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.”
The challenge these teams already accepted is that this has the makings of a long series. Even when the Bruins blew out the Vancouver Canucks 8-1 in Game 3 of the 2011 final after two close ones to start, it wound up going seven.
The possibility of that isn’t far away, and the Blackhawks are already in that mode.
“It doesn’t matter what game we’re in and what the score is in the series,” Toews said, “we try to play like it’s Game 7, no matter what.”