At 9:51 of overtime, Brent Seabrook lifted his stick, ready to rip a slap shot on Tuukka Rask. It was the third attempt of Chicago’s game-winning flurry.
Just seconds earlier, Patrick Kane had cruised past Dennis Seidenberg to slip a sharp-angle shot on Rask. The netminder stopped Kane’s shot. But the rebound skittered out to Bryan Bickell at the left circle. Bickell hammered a shot that deflected off Patrice Bergeron and rolled out to the point.
So when the puck squirted out to Seabrook, the Bruins were in full pursuit. Jaromir Jagr couldn’t clear the puck. Bergeron couldn’t fill the shooting lane in time. The Blackhawks made the Bruins pay. Seabrook whistled the puck over Rask’s blocker to give the Blackhawks a 6-5 overtime win in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden.
“Definitely not our style of game,” Bergeron said. “We’ve got to tighten up in our zone and the neutral zone.”
The series is tied, 2-2. The Blackhawks are returning to Chicago with home-ice advantage. Game 5 is at the United Center on Saturday.
“I don’t think we played our best game tonight,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “A lot of different reasons. I think our decision-making wasn’t very good at times. We weren’t moving the puck as well as we had been in the past. Certainly a tough outing for us tonight. They came out hard. They played extremely well. They had the better of us for the first half of the game until we got ourselves going a little bit. Those are things that happen in the finals, where you don’t feel you played good enough to win. That’s what happened tonight.”
The game-winning sequence captured the Bruins’ Game 4 problem. They chased the game all night. It is no way to play in the Stanley Cup Final. Especially against a fast-moving Chicago club that finally saw its go-to players unglue themselves from the Bruins’ smothering defense.
Kane and Jonathan Toews, playing on the same line as Bickell, scored their first goals of the series. Marian Hossa returned after missing Game 3. Patrick Sharp ripped off a game-high eight shots. They are the four high-end forwards the Blackhawks hoped would find their rhythm. They did.
“They’re a good line,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “They’re very fast. They’re tough to play against. They always have been. But if you play the right way, we should be fine.”
The game was played at Chicago’s preferred pace. It was up-and-down pond hockey. The Blackhawks had all the things they lacked in the 2-0 Game 3 setback: odd-man rushes, multiple chances on Rask, speed through the neutral zone.
Chicago landed 47 pucks on goal. Every player except Nick Leddy (2:37 of ice time) recorded at least one shot.
“It was mental, positional,” Seidenberg said of the Bruins’ breakdowns. “You always talk about layers, right? We just didn’t have those tonight. That’s why things like that happen.”
For all that, the Bruins were in the game. They fell behind, 3-1, in the second period, prompting Julien to call his timeout at 8:41. Julien did all the talking. He reminded his players that half a game remained.
“We had to get ourselves back into our game,” Julien said. “I thought we were frustrated. Instead of focusing on what we had to do, we were complaining about calls, non-calls, everything else. We got away from our game. It was just about refocusing our guys. They were good about it. All I talked about was that we had half the game left, lots of time to get back into it. That’s what we did.”
The Bruins trained their sights on Corey Crawford’s leaky glove. They scored all five of their strikes glove side.
“I can’t start thinking about that,” Crawford said. “That’s when you get in trouble, when you start thinking everything is going to go glove. I’m just going to play the way I’ve been playing and stick with that.”
At 14:43 of the second, Milan Lucic made it a 3-2 game when he tapped in the rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot. Forty-nine seconds later, Marcus Kruger gave the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead.
But the Bruins pulled even by 2:05 of the third, thanks to a pair of Bergeron goals. Bergeron scored his first after a fortunate bounce. Chara’s power-play blast thudded off the glass, hit the top of the net, and tumbled into the crease. Before Crawford could react, Bergeron went glove side at 17:22.
At 2:05 of the third, after taking a feed from Jagr, Bergeron snapped the tying goal through Crawford.
Sharp responded by tucking in the rebound of a Hossa shot at 12:14 of the third. Johnny Boychuk answered with one of his trademark slap shots, rocketing the puck past Crawford to make it a 5-5 game.
“It was a little late, but I think we started to play a little better,” Seidenberg said. “It was still an up-and-down game, which is not really our style. But it was just the way it went.”