BOSTON – The momentum that was firmly in the Chicago Blackhawks’ grasp slipped away.
They’ve come to Boston to reclaim it.
They lost to the Bruins 2-1 in overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals after leading 1-0 and outshooting Boston 19-4 in the first period on Saturday night.
“We got away from what made us successful in the first period of Game 2,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday. “You know your opponents are going to get their turn.”
In a best-of-seven series of momentum shifts, the Blackhawks hope to get the next turn in Monday night’s third game and take a 2-1 lead.
“I guess the main thing is to always keep it simple,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said “If you can do that, usually you can take away some of their momentum. I think right now they do have it, especially after the last overtime period where it seemed like they had a lot of chances compared to ours.”
The team that scored first has lost both games.
The Bruins led 2-0 on goals by Milan Lucic and 3-1 in the opener. But then they allowed two goals in the last 12 minutes of regulation and the Blackhawks won 4-3 in three overtimes.
“Might be an unusual stat,” Quenneville said, “but there’s nothing wrong with scoring first.”
The Bruins physical play might have taken its toll in Game 2. They outhit the Blackhawks 50-34 and dominated overtime.
“I’m used to getting hit back there quite a lot,” Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “I know how to take a hit or two. I think for the most (part) we might not be the most physical D corps in the league, but we’re trying to move the puck quick. Sometimes you have to take a good hit to deliver a pass.”
Any momentum Chicago gained by winning Game 1 carried over into Game 2 despite two days between games. The Blackhawks started aggressively, pressuring goalie Tuukka Rask and shutting down the Bruins offence with tight checking.
“We played a perfect first period there,” Quenneville said. “In the second, we were going along fine, too, but I thought we slowed down a little bit in that period.”
The Blackhawks have struggled on the power play, and their inability to score after Boston’s Johnny Boychuk was penalized for holding at 8:15 of the second period may have turned the momentum in the Bruins’ favour.
Less than seven minutes later, Chris Kelly tied the game with his first goal of this post-season.
“On the power play, if you’re not going to score, you always want to at least build momentum somehow by getting chances,” Kane said. “You see with special teams in this playoffs, you can either get a lot of momentum off a big (penalty) kill or some momentum off a good power play or scoring a goal on the power play.”
The Blackhawks are scoreless in six power-play opportunities against the Bruins and in 14 over their past five games. They’ve scored just once in the past 24 times they’ve had the extra skater.
“There’s not a lot of high-quality chances” when the teams are at even strength, Quenneville said. “We’ve got to look to maybe simplify it and play anything at the net.
“The pretty plays aren’t there. If we think the pretty plays are there with power plays, they evaporate quickly.”
Just like momentum.
In a series in which both teams emphasize playing disciplined hockey and avoiding risks that could lead to costly mistakes, all it takes is one play—a big hit, an intercepted pass, a goal—for control to shift from one team to the other.
So how can the Blackhawks regain the momentum against a team they didn’t play during the regular season?
“I guess that’s something we’re learning as we go, especially in a series like this with a team you haven’t seen all year, don’t really know much about,” Kane said, “until you do play these games.”