CHICAGO — Tuukka Rask’s description of the game-winning goal that got by him was as abrupt as the ending to the triple-overtime masterpiece that for the Bruins was defaced by defeat.
“Point. Shot. Tip. Goal,” said Rask, who stopped 59 shots for Boston. He could not rebuff a Blackhawks shot by Michal Rozsival that ricocheted off the stick of Dave Bolland and then actually deflected once more off the leg of Andrew Shaw, ending the Chicago marathon that was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
That’s the cruel irony of such a great contest that can’t be summed up as succinctly as Blackhawks 4, Bruins 3. That as long as the tug of wills and test of endurance went on at the United Center — 112 minutes and 8 seconds of game time and 4 hours and 38 minutes of real time — and as long as it will be seared in our memory banks it’s over just like that.
Time to move on to Game 2.
But if this is where the Stanley Cup Final is headed from a stylistic standpoint then please remain on the edge of your seat with your seatbelt securely fastened. This one has already lived up to the hype after just one game. This is the product that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants to sell to the folks south of the Canadian border, a game of grace, guts, and whiplash-inducing momentum swings. He got all of that last night stamped with the Original Six seal that heightens any hockey contest.
The Bruins and Blackhawks, two legacy franchises with a wealth of history, added to it with an instant classic, which was the only thing immediate about Game 1.
“Both teams wanted to win that game and not one was going to give it up,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
The get-to-know-you game between the Bruins and Blackhawks couldn’t be decided in three periods or four or five. After waiting all season to meet for the first time due to the vagaries of hasty post-lockout hockey schedule, the two Original Six combatants just couldn’t get enough of each other.
Deliverance and the denouement didn’t come to the United Center until midnight Central Standard Time.
It was almost a shame the game had to end with just one winner. This was the way hockey should be played on the game’s grandest stage with its greatest prize at stake. Up and down, back and forth, not gooned up or gunked up. Free-flowing, free-form, and frenetic.
When the game is like this the fourth ‘F’, fighting, is superfluous. You didn’t have to see gloves dropped to know this was a fight to the finish, a finish that it seemed was destined to never come.
There were a number of near-misses for both teams in the extra sessions.
The one that strained both heart rates and credulity was an ostensibly tipped Zdeno Chara power play shot with nine seconds left in overtime No. 2 that got behind Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, kissed the inside of the right post and then gamboled across the goal mouth.
But the Hockey Gods hadn’t seen enough, and 57 Chicago shots plus 47 Boston shots after 100 minutes of hockey didn’t equal a victory. We went on to overtime No. 3.
The lament for the Bruins will always be that it never should have come to extra ice time.
An extraordinary game seemed like a rather ordinary one when Patrice Bergeron restored the two-goal lead the Bruins had held early in the second period, ringing a power play rocket from the left circle off the framework for a 3-1 Boston lead.
After allowing two goals all series to the Penguins in 275 minutes of hockey, the Bruins allowed two third-period goals in a span of 6 minutes and 14 seconds.
Somewhere Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were shaking their heads in disgust.
Chicago came back to make it 3-2 at eight minutes of the third period when Bolland put home a nice feed from Shaw, the Red Menace. The play was triggered by a miscue by Torey Krug.
The Blackhawks tied the game with 7:46 to go on a Johnny Oduya shot that took a Chicago bounce off the left skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference.
“We had the game,” said Rask. “We were up 3-1 in the third and then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal, a tough bounce leads to a tying goal. We gave it away. We got to be better than that.”
Way back in the Mesozoic era known as the first period, it was the Bruins who broke the ice in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Money Line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton, which had combined for 51 points through three rounds, made another deposit. Lucic took a feed from Horton in the low slot and snapped a shot past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford at 13:11 of the first to mute the Madhouse on Madison.
Lucic struck again just 51 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0, Boston.
At that point Lucic had already equaled his career goal output in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks halved the lead at 3:08 of the second. Marian Hossa pilfered the puck from Horton, who later left the game with an injury in the first overtime, behind the Boston net and then fed Brandon Saad, who tallied his first goal of the playoffs.
The Bruins still led, 2-1, after two periods, but the Blackhawks were buzzing in the second period, outshooting Boston, 16-6. They outshot the Bruins, 31-14, in the final two periods of regulation, as the Big Red Machine kicked into high-gear.
It was a long night and a great night of hockey. It just was not the Bruins’ great night.
“It looked like it wasn’t our night,” Rask said. “Right on that power play, a deflection hits the inside post. Can’t get it in. There are a lot of loose pucks in front of the net. We couldn’t bounce on those. [Kaspars] Daugavins has an empty net. It just wasn’t our night I guess.”Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.