The Bruins played a fully caffeinated first period. They were committed to forcing Game 7. They won puck battles, kept the play in the Chicago zone, and prevented the Blackhawks from unleashing their trademark puck-possession game.
The Bruins’ hard work, however, resulted in only a 1-0 lead. It should have been a multigoal advantage.
“Obviously when you look at the first period, it could have been maybe 2-0, 3-0,” said coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins scored the opening goal at 7:19 of the first period. It came after some terrific work by the third line of Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin.
Kelly won an offensive-zone faceoff against Jonathan Toews. Once Kelly pulled the puck back, the Bruins won several battles. Torey Krug and Seguin helped get the puck to Paille. As soon as Seguin pushed the puck to his linemate, the right wing cut toward the net.
Once Paille settled the puck, he found Seguin slicing through the slot. Seguin caught Paille’s pass with his right hand, dropped it to his blade, and snapped a backhand pass to Kelly. Kelly whipped the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
It was not the Bruins’ only scoring opportunity. The best chance took place in the final minute of the period. Brad Marchand undressed Niklas Hjalmarsson at full speed down the left wing. Marchand spotted David Krejci driving to the far post.
Had Marchand delivered a flat pass to Krejci, the center would have had an easy tap-in to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Instead, the puck was wobbling. Krejci couldn’t get a clean swipe at the puck. Rather than going into the net, Krejci’s shot angled over the cage.
Krejci’s attempt was one of 32 shots the Bruins sent toward the net. The Bruins landed 12 shots, including Kelly’s goal. Chicago blocked 13 shots. The Bruins went wide with seven more. The Bruins held a 32-8 advantage in shots taken.
The Blackhawks survived the Bruins’ best push. In the second period, the Blackhawks found their legs.
Chicago scored the tying goal off a neutral-zone faceoff. Kelly won the draw and pulled the puck back to his teammates. Zdeno Chara went after the puck. But before Chara could retrieve it, Michal Rozsival pushed it forward to Toews.
With Chara caught up the ice, Toews and Patrick Kane pulled away for a two-on-one rush against Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg took away Toews’s cross-ice look to Kane. But Toews slipped a sharp-angle puck past Tuukka Rask at 4:24 of the second to tie the game at 1-1. The Bruins lost all their first-period momentum after Toews’s goal.
Patrice Bergeron faded. Jaromir Jagr played only one second-period shift because of an undisclosed injury. The Bruins couldn’t take advantage of their first-period firepower.
“That’s the name of the game,” said Julien. “You make your own breaks. Sometimes they go your way. Sometimes they don’t. We lost a lot of steam in the second period. Jagr left the bench and we had to shorten the bench. At the pace of the game and how hot it’s been, it took a toll on our players. We kind of regained a little bit in the third, especially when we scored that go-ahead goal. It seemed that if we could survive that, we’d give ourselves a chance here.”
Just in case
Bergeron didn’t participate in the morning skate prior to Game 6. The Bruins made contingency plans in case Bergeron couldn’t play.
Carl Soderberg took rushes in Bergeron’s spot on the second line. Soderberg replaced Kaspars Daugavins as the fourth-line left wing in Game 5. Soderberg moved up to center Marchand and Jagr after Bergeron’s exit.
The Bruins were satisfied with Soderberg’s playoff debut. He had two shots and helped set up chances for Marchand and Jagr in the third.
Jay Pandolfo practiced on the fourth line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton during the morning skate. Pandolfo and Jordan Caron skated in warm-ups. Both were healthy scratches, as were Daugavins, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Wade Redden, and Aaron Johnson.
Pandolfo has appeared in 131 career NHL playoff games, all with New Jersey.
“If I got a chance, I’d be confident going in there,” Pandolfo said. “I’ve played in these situations before. The biggest thing for me is just to stay ready. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Game 6 could be the final time that Jagr, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, and Anton Khudobin pulled on their Black-and-Gold jerseys. All four will become unrestricted free agents on July 5. Of the four players, Horton is the likeliest to return. However, the Bruins might have to free up cap space to re-sign Horton. Options include placing Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve or shedding the salaries of Peverley or Kelly via trade . . . The Bruins would like to bring Ference back. But the defenseman could find a multiyear offer elsewhere for bigger bucks. Bartkowski and Krug project to be full-time Bruins next season. “On and off the ice, he comes to play every game, whether he has a better game one night than another,” Julien said of Ference. “He’s always coming to play. You know he’s going to give you everything he’s got. Same thing in the dressing room. He cares about his teammates and does all the little things every year.” . . . Milan Lucic went 7 for 9 on faceoffs, 3 for 3 against Toews . . . Seguin finished the playoffs without a goal in 11 straight games. Seguin’s only postseason goal took place in Game 4 against the Rangers in the second round . . . The teams were expecting tough ice conditions for Game 6 because of the 90-degree-plus weather. Players were not complaining about the ice following the morning skate. “Keep the game simple, try and avoid those mistakes from overhandling pucks in those kinds of ice conditions,” Julien said of his message to his team.