A frantic, high-scoring game proved to be to Chicago's advantage in Game 4 Wednesday night as the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins, 6-5 in overtime, to even the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece.
After scoring 12 goals between them in the first three games, the teams combined for 11 goals at TD Garden in Game 4. Defenseman Brent Seabrook's score at the 9:51 mark in overtime proved to be the difference. With Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews camped out in front of the net, Seabrook's slapper found a spot of daylight around Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and found the back webbing. The Bruins and Blackhawks will now make this a best-of-three series, with Game 5 in Chicago Saturday night.
"I like shooting in that spot," Seabrook said of his game-winner. "To be honest I just try to get it past the centerman and their forward. They do such a good job of blocking shots and getting in the way. This time, our forwards did a good job at getting in front and boxing out."
There was plenty of traffic in front of both goalies in a game played at a frenetic pace. Twice the Blackhawks had two-goal leads. Twice the Bruins scratched back to tie. Bruins coach Claude Julien was happy with his team's fight but not with their performance.
"I don't think we played our best game tonight for a lot of different reasons," said Julien. "I think our decision-making wasn't very good at times. I didn't think we were moving the puck as well as we had been in the past. It was certainly a tough outing for us tonight."
In Game 4, the Bruins struggled in ways they hadn't before. Zdeno Chara had been on the ice for one opposing goal in his last seven games but was a witness to five Blackhawks goals Wednesday. Boston allowed 47 shots and had a narrow margin (39-38) in the faceoff circle. Juicy rebounds off Rask's pads were a problem. It all led to a scoring summary that would make many hockey traditionalists blush:
-- 6:28 first period: Bruins forward Tyler Seguin turns it over and Chicago's Brandon Saad comes speeding the other way. Saad gets the puck around Zdeno Chara and feeds it to Michal Handzus. The shorthanded goal puts the Blackhawks up, 1-0. It's the first goal allowed by Tuukka Rask in over 190 minutes.
-- 14:43 first period: Saad turns it over and the puck is kept in by Andrew Ference on his knees. Rich Peverley scores the power play goal from Ference, glove side on Corey Crawford. It's Peverley's second goal of the playoffs.
-- 6:33 second period: Michal Rozsival's shot is tipped in by Toews to put Blackhawks up, 2-1. Bryan Bickell was in front making it hard for Rask. It's the first point of the series for the Selke Trophy winner Toews.
-- 8:41 second period: Another rebound off Rask and Patrick Kane buries it to put the Blackhawks up, 3-1. Second-chance opportunities are really killing the Bruins. The Bruins call a timeout
-- 14:43 second period: Chara finds Lucic posting up and gives the Bruins life. A previously silent TD Garden crowd gets the crowd back into it. Bruins fans chanting Corey Crawford's name despite being down, 3-2.
-- 15:32 second period: Blackhawks answer to go up 4-2. On a 2-on-1, Marcus Kruger goes around Chara and stuffs the puck in on his second effort.
-- 17:22 second period: The craziest goal of them all. Puck bounces off the glass, bounces back on top of the Blackhawks net, and falls back to Patrice Bergeron, who shuffles it home. Crawford whiffed on his attempt to clear the puck.
-- 2:05 third period: Jaromir Jagr cycles, cycles, then sets it up for Bergeron, who ties the game again. Ninth goal of the playoffs for Bergeron, Jagr's 10th assist. Multiple points for both players on the night. Jagr now has 199 career points in 200 career playoff games.
-- 11:19 third period: With the Blackhawks on a 5-on-3 power play, Patrick Sharp scores to make it 5-4, assisted by Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith.
-- 12:14 third period: Johnny Boychuk rips a slap shot -- where else? -- glove side high on Crawford. Assisted by Nathan Horton and David Krejci.
As players and coaches tried to make sense of the madness afterward, a few key themes emerged. Both goaltenders know they can be better. In particular, Crawford seems to have a weakness on his glove side.
"Well, 99 percent of the shots are going glove side," said Crawford. "I can't start thinking about that, 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."
Rask's six goals allowed were a playoff career high.
"It's not fun," he said. "We just made it too tough on ourselves."
Another revelation from Game 4 was the emergence of Toews. He and fellow superstar Patrick Kane were teamed up on the same line and combined for three points and a plus-four in the game. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville joked afterward that he looked like a genius for putting his stars together and getting a win, adding, "I'm sure they're excited about returning together."
Toews had been held without a point in the first three games of the series. He credits his teammate Seabrook for helping to boost his confidence despite the slump.
"The last couple days Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I'm thinking about.," said Toews. "You know, I have to give him the right answer. I'm thinking about scoring a goal (smiling).
"He's been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better, have those positive thoughts. You work hard, eventually you're going to find a way. "
In the truest sign that the first four games of this series were about the teams feeling each other out, the Blackhawks didn't seem overly satisfied with the win. Toews was unhappy with his team giving up several leads.
"I wouldn't say we got comfortable, but we definitely need to focus on being smarter and playing better defensively in that situation," he said. "We definitely let them bounce back."
Toews found a way to break through, and the Bruins must now find a way to win another game on road ice.
"It's a series," said Bergeron. "You can't get too high or too low. We've got to get ready for Game 5."
Boston will need to win at least one game in Chicago in order to capture its second Stanley Cup in three seasons.