Sitting on a one-goal lead with a chance to force a Game 7, the Bruins allowed Chicago to score the game’s tying and winning goals 17 seconds apart late in the third period of Game 6 Monday night, the dramatic turn ending the Stanley Cup Final in six games and Boston’s season in heartbreaking fashion. A stunned crowd watched the Blackhawks accept the Stanley Cup on TD Garden ice.
“The best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said afterward. “I think that’s what’s hard right now.”
Chicago’s late scores were shocking but clinical. Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews — who was questionable heading into the game — threaded a beautiful feed to Bryan Bickell to knot the score at 2 with 1:16 left in regulation. Barely done celebrating, Chicago attacked again. Defenseman Johnny Oduya ripped a slap shot from the point that was deflected in front of the net by Michael Frolik. The deflected puck sailed past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask but struck the post, offering up an easy rebound for center Dave Bolland, who finished it into the back of the net to give Chicago a 3-2 lead with 58.3 seconds left.
A silent, sellout crowd of Bruins fans watched Chicago run out the clock. In an instant, the Blackhawks went from facing a deciding Game 7 to winning their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. Just as quickly, and in cruel twist reminiscent of what they did to the Toronto Maple Leafs a few series earlier, the Bruins saw their season slip away. The loss kept the Bruins from their second Stanley Cup win in three seasons.
“We’ve done it to somebody else, so we got to feel how it feels being on the other side,” said Rask. “This season we were known to lose a couple of leads. Even in the regular season we were up by goals and we lost the games. I guess that sums it up pretty good.”
It took six games for the Bruins to get off to a good start in the Finals, but they were on the right track early Monday night. In the first period the home team had all the chances, amounting a 32-8 lead in shots attempted. At the 7:19 mark, Tyler Seguin snatched the puck out of the air with his right hand and fed a cutting Chris Kelly to put the Bruins up, 1-0. The goal was emblematic of improved play from the pair of Bruins third-liners. Despite the chances, however, Boston was only able to put one goal on the board before the first intermission.
“I thought we came out the way we wanted to,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy, put a lot of pressure on them.”
The third line got the Bruins started, but there were questions about Boston’s other two lines throughout. Patrice Bergeron was a game-time decision after checking into a Chicago hospital during Game 5, but he was in Julien’s lineup for Game 6. Bergeron went through warmups carefully and a little slowly. He also spent some time hunched over. Usually one of the the last Bruins off the ice, Bergeron left warmups before any of his teammates.
The warning signs manifested themselves in the center’s play. Bergeron threw a couple of hits on his first shift, but they weren’t exactly forceful. He started the game taking faceoffs but ceded the duty to Rich Peverley late in the first period. He spent some more time bent over later in the game, and he was clearly not himself. After the game, Bergeron revealed he was playing with a broken rib, torn cartilage, and a separated shoulder.
“We want to play for each other, and to have him on the ice and on the bench was great,” said Bruins center David Krejci. “I was really happy that he was able to play. It wasn’t easy. He’s a warrior, and he loves the team.”
Tyler Seguin said Bergeron’s presence provided a lift.
“I think even when he was getting dressed in the locker room before the game, you could feel the boy’s sprits lifted,” said Seguin. “The year we won he was doing the same thing; fighting through everything. Obviously guys have bumps and bruises, but he’s a guy that you obviously say is the heart and soul of our team. He wears that ‘B’ with a lot of pride. ”
Jaromir Jagr also appeared to suffer an injury, limping off around the 9:00 mark in the first period. He returned to the bench to start the second period before going back to the locker room. Jagr returned in the third period, allowing Julien to shuffle his lines back to their original form. Julien said after the game that Chara also wasn’t playing at 100 percent. Nathan Horton revealed he was playing with a dislocated shoulder.
There was a scary moment late in the first period when Shawn Thornton fired a puck from close range right into Andrew Shaw’s face. The Blackhawks winger crumpled to the ice, blood gushing from under his right eye. He returned to the game, with trickles of blood making their way down his face during stoppages in play.
Chicago weathered the early storm and evened things up at the 4:24 mark in the second period. Toews won a faceoff and sped past Chara before firing a laser, five-hole, on Rask. There was audible cheering from some Blackhawks fans in the building, an ominous premonition of things to come.
“In the second 20 minutes we were making some turnovers, and obviously it was an even game,” said Chara.
Back together again, Boston’s third line had a scoring chance with 12:00 to go, but Danielle Paille was stuffed on the backhand by Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. The Bruins eventually did get to Crawford, and it looked like it would be for the game-winner. Milan Lucic scored his seventh goal of the playoffs at 12:11 in the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie and the tense atmosphere of an elimination game. Lucic applied a forceful forecheck behind the Blackhawks net to give the Bruins possession, then camped out in front and stuffed home a feed from Krejci. For a few minutes anyway, it looked like Lucic was going to provide the difference.
An hour or so after the game, Blackhawks fans continued to cheer from the stands as the celebration spilled onto the ice. Down below, the scene in the Bruins locker room was somber. Thornton praised Bergeron’s toughness. Krejci talked about the love he had for his teammates. Seguin said he wished he could have done more for a city that has gone through so much in recent months. At one point, Seguin was moved to tears.
“It’s a tough way to lose a game,” said Chara. “It’s a tough way to lose a series.”
The manner in which the Bruins lost is something defenseman Johnny Boychuk said will stick with him.
“Forever,” he said when asked how long the loss would linger. “I mean you are going to remember forever. You remember winning it, but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen.”