The first three periods of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals were so much fun that the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins decided to play three more. The Bruins put themselves in position to win throughout the marathon battle, but a twice deflected Chicago shot in the third extra session finally stumped Tuukka Rask to send Chicago fans home happy with a 4-3 win.
Despite playing in front of a hostile Chicago crowd, the Bruins came out with plenty of energy and took first blood. Nearly seven minutes into the first David Krejci evaded a heavy hit from Niklas Hjalmarsson behind the Chicago net. Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya chased Krejci below the goal, pulling himself completely out of position. Nathan Horton then played the middle-man between Krejci and Milan Lucic who found plenty of space to shoot vacated by the absent Oduya. The Bruins power forward blasted the shot into a wide open net set his team off and running.
The game played out completely as expected with the Blackhawks creating transition chances with their unmatched speed and the Bruins dominating the action in the corners. Chances abounded for both sides, but Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask each put on a marvelous display.
Lucic struck again just seconds into the middle period. Lucic trailed David Krejci into the zone on a three-on-two and he ripped a slapper high over the glove of Corey Crawford.
But the two goal deficit hardly scared off the home team. The Blackhawks fired back just two minutes later. Assisted by Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad got everything behind a wicked wrister from short range that Tuukka Rask had no hope of stopping.
As the game wore, on the speed of the Blackhawks began to wear down the Bruins. The Hawks’ fast break created constant chaos in front of Tuukka Rask, with red jersey’s swarming around the ever-bouncing puck.
Despite the shift in momentum, the Bruins regained their two goal lead in the third period off the stick of Patrice Bergeron. With Michael Frolik in the box for tripping, Tyler Seguin slid the puck out of the slot and over to Patrice Bergeron, who clanged a rollicking shot off the far post and into the net.
A Dave Bolland one-timer from Andrew Shaw cut the lead back to one with 12 minutes remaining in regulation, and then luck came to the aid of Joel Quenneville‘s team. At 12:14 in the third period, Johnny Oduya slapped a seemingly harmless shot a few feet wide of the Bruins’ net, but Andrew Ference‘s skate blade then changed the course of the game entirely. A deadly deflection off the Bruins defender’s boot sent the puck sputtering into the net, igniting the Madhouse on Madison.
Following Oduya’s goal another 59 minutes and 54 seconds of hockey would be needed to break the 3-3 tie. After a weak third period the Bruins looked to be the superior side in overtime, as they have in extra sessions throughout the postseason.
Over the next three periods the Boston Bruins put the Blackhawks in check repeatedly, always coming up just short of a winner. A Shawn Thornton breakaway seemed certain to end the evening, until the audience realized that the Bruins enforcer is the last person likely to capitalize on a breakaway.
A storm of superb chances from the Krejci, Lucic, Horton line nearly beat Corey Crawford, but ended with no goal and an injury that took Horton out of the game.
Despite Horton’s absence, Tyler Seguin was brilliant filling in alongside Krejci. The youngster who has just one goal to his name in the playoffs looked lethal, but came up just short again and again. Even reserve Kaspars Daugavins, who was called up to replace the injured Gregory Campbell, had a killer chance to end the game but he couldn’t finish a seemingly easy backhand, epitomizing the Bruins frustrating night.
12 minutes into the third overtime period, after miraculously surviving two too-many men on the ice penalties and the onslaught of Boston chances, the Blackhawks needed a bit more luck to light the lamp. Michal Roszival’s shot from the point deflected first off of Dave Bolland and then off of Andrew Shaw to complete a wild journey into the net. The violent double deflection gave Rask no chance.
The longest game of the 2013 postseason, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was as advertised. It was a classic battle of two heavyweights who refused to budge through six periods. The Blackhawks got all the bounces on Wednesday night, but outshooting their opponents 63-54 they were worthy winners. For their 1-0 series lead, they have Corey Crawford to thank.
The netminder was remarkable throughout, especially in overtime as he bailed out his teammates again and again. The Bruins will be heartbroken after the loss, but they won’t be lacking in confidence, especially Tuukka Rask—who made more than 50 saves for the second time in three starts.
The players will now enjoy a much needed two day rest before resuming hostilities on Saturday night. The intensity of this finals series has already exceeded each preceding round, so there should plenty of classic hockey up coming in the next few days.