CHICAGO — On and on they played.
It was like one of those dance marathons from the Depression Era. The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t settle things in the standard three periods in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. Then they couldn’t score a deciding goal in a first overtime. Or a second overtime.
It was an Ernie Banks moment right here in his hometown.
Let’s Play Two.
In one night.
So, they kept on playing into a third overtime, which did not start until 12:41 Thursday morning, and which ended when Chicago’s Andrew Shaw deflected a shot past Tuukka Rask at 12:08 of the third OT.
I felt especially bad for Jaromir Jagr. The guy is 41 years old. He waited 21 seasons to get back to the Final. Then they made him skate all around the ice way past midnight.
New England will not be a productive region today. A lot of adults stayed up way too late. Sleep was lost. The workforce will be weak for most of Thursday. People simply could not give up on their team, and the Bruins and Blackhawks could not settle things in five periods of Stanley Cup Final hockey.
Things looked easy at first. The Bruins had a two-goal lead in the second period. They had another two-goal lead with almost 14 minutes left in the third period. They looked like a lock to take a 1-0 series lead.
But they could not close it out. And the longer the game lasted, the better the Blackhawks looked.
We are not in Pittsburgh anymore. The Blackhawks are not the Penguins. They are not candidates for Dr. Melfi’s couch. They are stronger and faster than the Bruins. They are a team that opened the season without a loss in the first 24 games. For multiple reasons, they are favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Going into the third overtime Thursday, the Bruins were still the hot team of the 2013 playoffs. They hadn’t trailed for a single second of any game since May 25. They had outscored the opposition, 35-15, since the middle of the third period of their Game 7 against Toronto. They had won 9 of 10 games.
They were like Tom Brady leading the Patriots down the field at the end of the Super Bowl against the Rams in New Orleans. They were like Larry Bird, making every shot in his duel with Dominique Wilkins at the Garden. They were like Yaz in the summer of ’67, getting every big hit and making every important defensive play. No snake eyes for the Bruins. They were rolling sevens and 11s. They were white hot.
They were John F. Kennedy in 1960. They were the Beatles in 1964. They were “Mad Men” at the Emmy Awards.
The Bruins were often sluggish during the shortened 2012-13 season. There was a lot of talk about “flipping the switch.’’ Their own coach said they were a Jekyll-Hyde team.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde went fishin’. The May-June Bruins of 2013 were Killer B’s. The only game they’d lost in a four-week stretch came when goalie Rask slipped on the soggy ice of Madison Square Garden.
This is what happened to the Red Sox in 2004 and again in 2007. After losing Game 3 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, 19-8, the Sox rallied to beat the Yankees in Game 4, and wound up winning their final eight games. They did almost the same thing three years later. They fell behind the Indians, three games to one, then swept the Tribe three straight, and carried the momentum to the World Series, where they swept the Rockies.
There is no need to get cocky about any of this. The Bruins were hardly dominant in Game 1 against the Blackhawks. They lost some urgency after Milan Lucic (two goals) gave them a 2-0 lead in the first minute of the second period. The Blackhawks are good.
They could have rolled over when Patrice Bergeron’s one-timer whistled past Corey Crawford to make it 3-1 with 13:51 remaining. It got very quiet in the United Center for a few moments, but the Blackhawks are tough and tested. They fought back from a three-games-to-one deficit against the Red Wings, and recovered from potentially deflating moments in their closeout games against the Wings and the Kings.
Dave Bolland’s goal (turnover by Torey Krug) cut the margin to 3-2 with 12 minutes left. Then Johnny Oduya’s shot deflected off Andrew Ference’s left skate blade to tie the game with 7:46 remaining in regulation.
It was all Blackhawks for the remainder of the third period. Chicago looked stronger and faster over the final 10 minutes of regulation. The Bruins clung to life, hoping to regroup for overtime.
Boston had a power play in the first overtime, but could not convert. A breakaway by Shawn Thornton won’t get it done. It might as well have been Lyndon Byers. Making things tougher, Bruins winger Nathan Horton went off with an injury.
No goals in the first overtime.
No goals in the second overtime.
What a night for hockey.
The last time a Boston team opened a championship series in Chicago, Babe Ruth was pitching for the Red Sox. The great Bambino blanked the Cubs, 1-0, in the 1918 World Series opener in the Windy City.
That’s one of only two championship series (before this one) involving teams from Boston and Chicago. The Sox beat the Cubs in the ’18 World Series, and the Bears famously demolished the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans in January 1986.
The Bruins and Blackhawks have been playing one another since 1926, but not once in nine decades did they ever play in a Cup Final. Not even when there were only six teams in the entire league.
Now we know what happens when they meet in the championship round. We get more than five periods of crunching, white-knuckle hockey. It doesn’t get much better than what we saw in the United Center. They’ll be back for more in Game 2 Saturday night.
Till then, get some sleep.