BOSTON – The Blackhawks are heading back to Chicago having regained home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals and with a renewed faith in an offence that took more than 120 minutes to push a puck past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
“It’s time to put all those other games behind us, the games where we struggled to score,” captain Jonathan Toews said after contributing to Chicago’s most prolific output of the playoffs in a 6-5 victory over Boston in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“It was fun to see the puck go in as often as it did tonight. We know we can be better defensively. But we’ll use that confidence and try our best to pounce on them.”
Toews’ goal was the first in 11 games for the centre who tied for the team lead in scoring in the regular season. He also screened Rask on Brent Seabrook’s slap shot 9:51 into overtime that sent the series back to Chicago tied two games apiece.
Game 5 is Saturday night before the teams return to Boston for Game 6 on Monday.
“At this point of the season, it’s down to best-of-three,” said Seabrook, a defenceman who also had the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. “We want to win games, find a way to win ’em any way we can.”
It was the third overtime game in the matchup of Original Six franchises, but it bore little resemblance to the three tightly contested games that opened the series. The teams combined for five goals in the second period—as many as in Games 2 and 3 combined—as Chicago bounced back from its first shutout of the season with its highest-scoring game of the playoffs.
“I guess it was just our turn to score again,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who had a goal and an assist in the back-and-forth game. “It was a fun game to play. … I’m sure the fans enjoyed that, for sure.”
Bryan Bickell and Michal Rozsival had two assists apiece for Chicago, which had scored only five goals total in the first three games of the series and hadn’t gotten the puck past Rask in more than 129 minutes coming into Game 4. Corey Crawford made 28 saves for the Blackhawks, but he coughed up the lead three times.
“They keep coming,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “One of those nights.”
Patrice Bergeron scored twice, and Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr each had two assists for Boston, which has won 11 of its last 14 playoff games; the three losses have all been in overtime. Rask made 41 saves, but he didn’t see the last shot until it was too late.
“I saw it at the last second,” he said. “There was some traffic in front … just couldn’t make a stretch.”
The Blackhawks led 1-0, 4-2 and 5-4, but each time the Bruins evened it up. The last, just 55 seconds after Chicago took the lead, came when Johnny Boychuk slapped it over a sliding Johnny Oduya with 7:46 left in regulation.
Boychuk, who had never scored more than five goals in a season, has six in these playoffs.
“It wasn’t a Bruins’ type of game, but at the same time you have to get yourself back into it,” coach Claude Julien said. “Our guys worked hard to score goals. Probably got ourselves out of what our normal game plan is. So we opened up and we scored goals, but we also gave them some goals, like the game-winning goal.”
The overtime was even until the Bruins failed to clear the zone, and the Blackhawks got the puck to Seabrook at the right point. What seemed like a harmless shot eluded Rask, and Chicago followed with a subdued celebration at the end of another long night.
“If he sees the puck, he’s going to be almost impossible to beat,” Quenneville said. “We want to make sure we get there and make it hard on him to find it, try to go on the second and third opportunity. Nice ending with traffic in the net, Seabs having a shot that tied us up.”
The Bruins had trailed for under 60 minutes total out of the almost 900 minutes they had played in the post-season. But the Blackhawks came out strong early in this one, recording the first seven shots and taking a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal when Oduya was off for interference early in the first period.
Brandon Saad picked Tyler Seguin clean in the defensive zone and brought the puck down the ice before flipping it across to Michal Handzus, who rattled it in off the post to make it 1-0. That snapped Rask’s shutout streak which dated to the first period of Game 2, but the lead didn’t last for long.
None of them did.
“I don’t think anybody expected that before the game,” Rask said. “But they’re a good offensive team. When you give them goals and they get the lead, obviously, you have to start opening up too and creating some offence. That’s what happened. I think if you take something positive out of this, you’ve got to look at the fact that we scored five goals.”
Notes: Bruins Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, who also played briefly for Chicago, was in the crowd, waving a yellow towel in support of the Bruins. … Boston killed 29 consecutive penalties dating to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, including the first 13 Chicago opportunities of the finals. … The Blackhawks had the first seven shots of the game despite a penalty that left them short-handed. … Jagr assisted on both goals by Bergeron, giving the 1999 NHL MVP 199 career post-season points. He is fifth all-time. … Midway through the first, Boston’s Shawn Thornton hit the scoreboard when he lofted the puck out of the zone.