CHICAGO — The visiting dressing room at the United Center was not a comfortable place after the first period of Game 2 Saturday night.
The Bruins slumped into the room, shell-shocked after a first-period beatdown. The Blackhawks had poured 19 shots on Tuukka Rask. The Bruins managed just four pucks on the Chicago net. The Boston netminder posted an 18-save response, but the Bruins were in danger of seeing their season tumble into Lake Michigan if they submitted two more 20-minute stinkers.
Words were spoken. Not kind ones, either.
“We’ve got to be honest in here with each other,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “We all know it wasn’t our best period. We were man enough, or grown-up enough, to tell each other what to do better.”
For the rest of the game, the Bruins applied their in-room frustration upon the Blackhawks. They finished every check. They managed the puck. They sealed off the neutral zone. And a newly formed third line of Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin scored two goals to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win. Paille netted the game-winner at 13:48 of overtime.
“Big win for us,” said Milan Lucic. “It obviously wasn’t the start we were looking for. But we were able to battle back. That line put together with Paille, Kelly, and Seguin, they stepped up huge and got us the win here tonight.”
Prior to the winning goal, Brent Seabrook rimmed a puck around the boards in the defensive zone. Brandon Bollig was positioned along the wall to settle the rim. But the puck glanced off Bollig’s stick. Adam McQuaid, who had sealed off the right point, won the puck from Bollig.
From there, the Bruins went to their bread and butter: creating offense after a turnover. McQuaid snapped a pass down the wall for Seguin. As soon as Seguin received the pass, he sent the puck off his blade to Paille across the ice. Before Seabrook could recover to fill the shooting lane, Paille pinged the puck over Corey Crawford’s glove for the winner.
Paille had started the game on the fourth line with Kelly and Shawn Thornton. Seguin was with Rich Peverley and Kaspars Daugavins on the third line.
But early in the second period, with his team misfiring on offense, coach Claude Julien went with a hunch. It worked.
The Bruins were desperate for bottom-six production. It was a group in disarray following Gregory Campbell’s exit in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. The fourth line had lost its identity. The third line had literally submitted zeros — Kelly was 0-0—0 entering Saturday — throughout the playoffs.
So just when the Bruins needed some depth involvement, they got it.
In the second period, the No. 3 line scored the tying goal. The play started when Patrick Sharp had the puck on the left-side wall in the defensive zone. Sharp was in good shape, he could have chipped the puck off the boards to clear the zone. But Andrew Ference made a sharp read by pinching down the wall and sealing off Sharp’s exit.
At the same time, Kelly rotated up to the right point to cover for Ference. With Ference hunting for the puck, Sharp had to retreat back down the boards, deeper into the defensive zone. Seguin joined Ference to pressure Sharp. By the time Sharp was behind the net, the forward lost the puck to Paille. The left wing picked his way around Nick Leddy, stepped out front, and swiped a shot on goal.
Crawford stuffed Paille’s shot. But Kelly, who had rotated back down into the slot, saw the rebound squirt out. He beat Patrick Kane to the loose puck and jammed it home at 14:58 of the second to tie the game at 1-1.
“When you don’t score, eventually you get scored on, and the minuses keep creeping up,” Julien said. “That was certainly something that bothered him. I thought he played well tonight. He’s played well in some games. He hasn’t been able to produce. So tonight was a good night for him. A good time, obviously, to have a great game. His effort and his will to be a better player was always there.”
There was nothing great about the first period. The Bruins were Charlie Brown to the Blackhawks’ Lucy. Every time the Bruins approached the puck, the Blackhawks pulled it away.
The Bruins didn’t belong on the same ice as the Blackhawks in the first period.
It was varsity against JV, Porsche 911 against pickup truck, men against boys. The Blackhawks manhandled the Bruins in every segment of the game.
“In the first, they were skating and we weren’t,” Julien said. “It was totally lopsided. It was a hard period to coach and to watch.”
Yet for all their domination, the Blackhawks managed just one first-period goal. Chicago beat Rask after a flurry of shots by the No. 2 line.
Rask stopped three straight pucks, but the Bruins couldn’t bail out their goalie by retrieving the rebounds.
With Rask down and out and Michal Handzus causing havoc in front, Sharp whistled the puck into the net at 11:22 to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks should have deposited at least three more pucks behind Rask. But the netminder fended off the barrage.
“We were certainly grateful that Tuukka played so good for us,” Seidenberg said. “We knew we should have been down by more than one.
“They had so many chances and shots on net. Tuukka saved us quite a few times. For us to be only down one, we knew we were lucky. We just told ourselves to start playing if we wanted to get a win at the end.”
After the first, the Bruins halted the Blackhawks’ pond-hockey pace. The tempo returned to a more manageable rhythm for the Bruins.
Through two periods, they held a 39-13 thump advantage over Chicago. The punishment paid off in the end.