CHICAGO — It was 23 years ago. It was in the old Boston Garden. It was in the middle of May. The Bruins and Edmonton Oilers skated into a third overtime in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. It went until 1:22 in the morning.
And the Bruins lost, 3-2, when Petr Klima (whose lawn in Edmonton used to be mowed by none other than current Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference) beat Andy Moog with a five-hole wrist shot at 55:13 of overtime. Klima, who spent most of the night opening and closing the door for his teammates, said he hadn’t skated a shift in almost three hours before he scored the game-winner.
The Bruins never recovered. They went on to lose three of the next four and watched the Oilers hoist the Stanley Cup on Boston Garden ice.
The Bruins did not get back to the Stanley Cup Final for 21 seasons.
After the 1990 Final, Ray Bourque, captain of the Bruins, said he thought the entire series would have been different had they been able to win the interminable Game 1.
The Bruins were beaten in similar fashion here Wednesday night when Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw deflected a Michal Rozsival shot at 12:08 of the third overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 win and a 1-0 series lead.
This time, the Bruins need to bounce back.
They can’t let the three-overtime loss demoralize them for the rest of this series, which resumes at the United Center Saturday night.
Does Claude Julien worry that his team will have trouble recovering from the devastating defeat?
“I don’t think so,’’ Julien said Thursday. “We’ve been through a lot. The year we won, we were down, 2-0, to Montreal and we were down, 2-0, to Vancouver. I don’t think much is going to rattle our team. We live in the moment.’’
Bruins boss Cam Neely is one of a handful of people who were at both of these Bruins heartbreakers. Neely was their high-scoring forward back in 1990, and Thursday he talked about it.
Does he think the 1990 series would have unfolded differently if the Bruins had taken the dramatic opener?
“Tough to say,’’ answered Neely. “Maybe it would have, but it’s really tough to say. It’s always tough when you lose in triple overtime.’’
Both three-overtime losses ended five-game playoff winning streaks for the Bruins, but the 1990 game was more exhausting.
It’s still the longest game in the history of the Stanley Cup Final, and it took 5 hours and 32 minutes to play, owing in part to a 25-minute delay in the third overtime when television lights in the old Garden went out because of an issue with the ancient barn’s electrical system.
Moog rested his head on the net for a short nap when the lights dimmed in the sixth period, while NHL president John Ziegler said to Garden president Larry Moulter, “So the Garden has done it again.’’
Fans worried about not being able to get home if the MBTA closed (the T stayed open, thank you very much). The game was officiated by Don Koharski — he of “have another doughnut, you fat pig” fame. When it finally ended, and the organ music stopped, Garden announcer Joel Perlmutter said, “Good night . . . and good morning,’’ as the last of the disappointed Bruins fans filed out of the moribund arena. Bruins center Craig Janney was taken via ambulance to the emergency room at Mass. General, where he was treated for dehydration.
“It was a really hot night,’’ said Neely. “And our equipment was heavier then. It really held the water.’’
Relatively speaking, fans in Chicago got a break Wednesday. It was 12:59 a.m. EDT when Shaw tipped home Rozsival’s wrister from just inside the blue line. It wasn’t even midnight in Chicago. It was the fifth-longest Cup Final game in history.
Neely wasn’t the only Bruins veteran of 1990 who was at Wednesday’s game. Bourque, Mike Milbury, and Don Sweeney were also at both games.
Bourque, who put seven shots on goal in the final period of regulation in 1990, was in the crowd at the United Center. Sweeney watched with Neely from the Bruins executive box on the seventh floor over the ice.
“Don Sweeney and I were talking during overtime about how we had chances to finish it off, just like we did way back when,’’ said Neely. “I certainly had some flashbacks.’’
Any one moment come to mind?
“Glen Wesley had an opportunity to bury it in overtime, but put it over the net,’’ said Neely.
Milbury, coach of the Bruins in 1990 and now a big-time TV guy, won’t forget Wesley’s miss in the second OT.
“He had the overtime winner on his stick,’’ the bombastic former coach told our Kevin Paul Dupont. “Someone asked me today if we had to console him. No, I had to console myself. He had enough time to shoot it. He could have had a picnic lunch on it.’’
The 1990 Bruins were unable to regroup.
“It’s easy to say that losing that game might have had an effect on us, but these are two very different teams,’’ said Neely. “This team has the experience of winning in 2011 and we didn’t have that.
“But,’’ Neely added. “They [the 1990 Oilers] were on a high from winning that game and we weren’t.’’
That’s the challenge of Saturday night. The 2013 Blackhawks are flying high from a pulsating comeback victory. The Bruins are trying to forget and start over.