The first goal should have been the giveaway. Because, well, that’s exactly what it was.
Tyler Seguin misplayed the puck along the boards on a Bruins power play, and the Blackhawks suddenly and swiftly had it going the other way. They converted the shorthander, with Michal Handzus beating Tuukka Rask, ending the goalie’s shutout streak at 129:14.
That sent the teams on an adventure that wouldn’t end until 9:51 of overtime. It was then that the Blackhawks sent their sixth and final puck past Rask, their 6-5 win knotting the teams at 2-2 as the Stanley Cup Final shifts back to Chicago.
“If you look at the goals, it wasn’t our best defensive game,” Rask said. “I think that’s something we’ve got to be better at.”
The mistakes continued throughout, with the typically rock-solid Bruins defense breaking down in the face of the Blackhawks onslaught. But at the end of it was Rask, who yielded one more goal in Game 4 than he had in the first three combined.
“They got a lot of shots through, a lot of second opportunities,” Rask said. “You let in six goals as a goalie, you can’t be satisfied, but as a team I thought that was not our best defensive game either.”
Asked about the reason for those defensive breakdowns, ones that the Bruins have rarely seen during this playoff run, Rask said, “Probably just mental. Mental mistakes. We weren’t sharp enough mentally.”
It was a thought that Dennis Seidenberg echoed, calling neither team sharp mentally. He added, “If you’re not positioned right all over the ice, breakdowns happen, odd-man rushes happen.”
For most of the night, the Blackhawks seemed to be sending more players toward the net, which was the case on the winning goal by Brent Seabrook. Rask said he saw the puck on that play, but only at the last second. By then, it was too late.
“We had some breaks around the net, found some loose pucks,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought we had way more traffic than the last game.
“If he sees the puck, he’s going to be almost impossible to beat. We want to make sure we get there and make it hard on him to find it, try to go on the second and third opportunity.”
And that worked.
The uncharacteristic defensive effort went down the line. Zdeno Chara was minus-3. Seguin was minus-3. Brad Marchand was minus-3. Seidenberg was minus-2. So was Patrice Bergeron.
“They just got shots through,” Rask said. “I wasn’t able to make saves. Or we weren’t able to block shots. They got those rebounds. That makes a difference.”
And the Blackhawks converted. Patrick Kane scored on a rebound. Marcus Kruger scored on a rebound. Patrick Sharp scored on a rebound.
“It’s not on anybody,” Rask said. “Things happen. There’s rebounds and the puck is just bouncing. Tough breaks.”
While coach Claude Julien declined to publicly evaluate Rask’s performance, he did say, “I look at our whole team and tell you our whole team was average tonight. You can take what you want from that.
“I think we can be a lot better. We have an opportunity to be better next game. Hopefully, if anything, that makes us even hungrier for the next game.”
That game will come Saturday in Chicago. And while the Bruins were an inch away from having a 3-1 lead in the series, they’ll instead have to win a Stanley Cup Final that has come down to the best-of-three.
In those final three games, the Bruins — and Rask, especially — will have to get back to what they did so very well against Pittsburgh and in the first three games against Chicago. They have to be themselves defensively.
They have to do what they didn’t do in Game 4.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.