A battle between two of the best defensive teams in the NHL turned into a shootout in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday, with the Chicago Blackhawks prevailing 6-5 in overtime on defenseman Brent Seabrook’s slap shot past Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with 10:09 left in the extra period.
The series is now tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5 Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Chicago. But until then, relive the Game 3 action below with our live blog from the wildest game of the series so far:
The Blackhawks and Bruins left the ice knotted at 1-1 after one period at TD Garden, with both teams scoring their goals on Bruins power-play chances.
Yes, the Blackhawks, who entered the game having come up empty on their last 20 power play opportunities, scored while a man down, taking a 1-0 lead just 6:48 in on a sliding shorthanded goal from Michal Handzus, who slammed into the wall after knocking Brandon Saad’s pass past Tuukka Rask and into the net:
Boston then got on the board 14:43 into the period, with an unassisted power play goal off the tape of Rich Peverley. Boston gained the man advantage after Duncan Keith got booked for hooking and and Chicago’s Andrew Shaw and Boston’s Chris Kelly got sent to the box for roughing. (That, kids, is why you use words, not fists, to solve your differences.)
For the most part, this Stanley Cup Final has been short on offense, with Rask and Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford dominating for both teams in Games 1 through 3. But finding the net was no problem whatsoever in the second period of Game 4.
Chicago broke the 1-1 tie with 13:27 left in the second, turning a Zdeno Chara turnover into a 2-1 lead. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews deflected Michal Rozsival’s long shot past Rask to light the lamp. The goal was just Toews’ second of the postseason.
Shortly after Toews found the net, Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (who, recall, is a weenie), pushed the lead to 3-1 on his goal with 11:19 left in the second period.
Like Toews, Kane’s goal represents his first of the series. However, he’s been more productive for the playoffs, as a whole — most notably with a hat trick in the Blackhawks’ Game 5 elimination of Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals. Not coincidentally, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville decided earlier Wednesday to put Toews and Kane back together on the same line. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the move seems to be paying off.
But you didn’t think a 3-1 lead was going to hold in this game, though, did you? Of course you didn’t, silly. No home team is going to go away quietly with a chance to put an opponent on the ropes. And Milan Lucic put the Bruins back in Game 4, ending the Blackhawks’ mini-run with a backhand rebound of a Chara shot to slash the Bruins’ deficit to 3-2 with 5:17 left in the frame.
Unfortunately for Boston, it only took 49 seconds for Chicago to push the lead back to two goals, as the Blackhawks took a 4-2 lead on 23-year-old Swede Marcus Kruger’s third goal of the postseason — a putback of his own shot off of a nifty pass from Michael Frolik.
However, before the ‘Hawks could even celebrate — and before I could even finish typing this sentence — Boston cut the lead back to one at 4-3 at the 17:22 mark of the second when Patrice Bergeron used an assist from the top of the Blackhawks net (and Chara and Jaromir Jagr) to score his eighth goal of the postseason (and third of the series).
(The assist for Jagr, by the way, put the 41-year-old in sole possession of fifth place all-time in postseason scoring, ahead of Paul Coffey.)
The final minute of the second period provided nearly as much excitement as the first 19, with several near-misses by the Bruins — including an inconceivable miss off the post on an empty net by Kelly, which set off an inadvertent goal horn. But the teams left the ice having accounted for five goals in the frame and with the Blackhawks leading 4-3.
Got all that? Good. Now everyone take a deep breath. This third period is going to be fun.
Early in the third period, Bergeron and Jagr picked up where they (and Chara) left off late in the second, teaming up for a goal just 2:05 into the final frame to tie the game at 4-4. All four Bruins goals to this point have beaten Crawford glove-side.
Things are getting interesting now. High-sticking penalties by Toews and then, a short time later, by Jagr led to a fun 4-on-4 midway through the third period. But then a costly hooking penalty by the Bruins’ David Krejci with 32 seconds left in Toews’ time in the box gave the Blackhawks an abbreviated 4-on-3 advantage (and would eventually cost Boston the lead, however briefly).
That 4-on-3 turned into a 5-on-3 for 20 seconds when Toews returned to the ice, and though Jagr’s penalty ended, giving the Blackhawks a traditional 5-on-4 power play, the grizzly veteran had yet to even return to the play when Patrick Sharp’s rebound goal off a Marian Hossa shot gave Chicago a 5-4 lead with 8:41 left in the game.
Once the teams got back to full strength, however, the Bruins needed just 55 more seconds to tie the game up at 5-5 on Johnny Boychuk’s goal, which — again — beat Crawford glove-side. The guy clearly needs a bigger glove.
The last 7:46 of the third period passed somewhat uneventfully, a shock given the first two-thirds of the game. Game 4 marks the third overtime game in this series — we’ve already seen a triple OT and a single OT — and though little has been predictable about this contest so far, one thing can be said with certainty: Someone is going to win 6-5.
Crawford withstood a barrage of Bruins shots just over a minute into the overtime period, and by the midway point of the OT, the ‘Hawks goalie’s endurance in net paid off. With 10:09 left in the first overtime, Chicago defenseman Seabrook lined one up from between the faceoff circle and the blue line and fired a slap shot past Rask — who was being screened well by Toews — to give the Blackhawks a wild 6-5 win at TD Garden.
Chicago’s six goals came from six different Blackhawks — Seabrook’s was his third of the playoffs — and the road victory snaps a seven-game home winning streak for the Bruins. Most importantly, it tied the series at 2-2 heading into Saturday night’s Game 5 at the United Center, where someone will move to within one win of a Stanley Cup.
After combining for 12 goals in the first three games of the series, the Blackhawks and Bruins scored 11 on Wednesday alone, which truly is remarkable. This series has been thrilling and unpredictable and absolutely riveting from beginning to end, and a fan couldn’t possibly ask for two more talented or evenly-matched teams.
After Wednesday night’s deviation from everything we thought we knew about the Bruins and Blackhawks, I can’t begin to tell you what to expect when the teams drop the puck again on Saturday. But if the first four games of the series are any indication, I can guarantee that it’ll be a battle you won’t want to miss.