By Brad Gardner
Entering the game trailing the Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals series, the Chicago Blackhawks were desperate for a win on Wednesday night in Boston. The ‘Hawks offense woke up, but the Bruins would not let Game 4 go quietly.
The Bruins tied the game twice in the third period to force yet another overtime session. Brent Seabrook scored the decisive goal in overtime, his second overtime goal of the playoffs, to give the visiting team a 6-5 win.
For a series that had been featuring a great goaltending duel between Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask, Game 4 was a distinct change of pace. The wide open play no doubt benefited the Blackhawks, but even though the visitors were able to play more to their game, the Bruins proved that they could match them blow-for-blow.
Increased traffic in front of the net and active defensemen helped key the Blackhawks turnaround in the offensive end. The team was still looking for a lot of redirections and deflections in the middle of the ice, but both the shot quality and quantity – the Blackhawks finished the game with 47 shots – were much improved from Game 3.
The Blackhawks got that first goal from Michal Handzus on a shorthanded rush with Brandon Saad. Tyler Seguin was turned over near his own blue line by Saad, who carried the puck up the right wing. He sent a backhand saucer pass to an open area of ice, and Handzus was the first one to the puck and whacked it past Rask to the short side.
A post-whistle scrum saw two Blackhawks go to the box for Boston’s one player, putting the Bruins on their third powerplay of the first period. Rich Peverley pulled the Bruins even in the waning seconds of the man advantage following a Blackhawks turnover. Saad’s fluttering clearing attempt was kept in at the line by Adam McQuaid, and even though Saad nearly got the puck back from McQuaid’s pass, the ‘Hawks winger lost his footing and the puck wound up on the stick of Peverley. Crawford was not ready for the shot and barely reacted before the puck was past him.
The team’s took the 1-1 score into the first intermission, but the score did not remain that way long into the second. The Blackhawks scored a pair of goals 128 seconds apart to take control of the lead. Jonathan Toews scored his second goal of the playoffs on a deflection from a Michal Rozsival point shot. Patrick Kane followed that up by finishing off a third chance with a backhand shot that just beat a lunging Rask over the glove.
The Bruins pulled back within one goal on a Milan Lucic goal, a backhander that he lifted past Crawford’s glove-side shoulder. Patrick Sharp’s attempt to clear the puck around the boards was kept in by Chara, who threw the puck towards the net. Lucic picked up the rebound and made it a 3-2 score at the 14:43 mark of the second.
Just 49 seconds later, Marcus Kruger re-extended the Blackhawks lead to two goals on a rush with Michal Frolik. Carrying the puck into the zone, Frolik out-waited Zdeno Chara as he went down to try to take away the passing lane. Frolik’s pass made it to Kruger, who first attempt to drag the puck to his backhand and tuck it around Rask. The goalie made a great save by stretching out his leg, but with both Rask and Chara down, Kruger had plenty of time to regather the puck on his forehand and lift it over the goalie.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Patrice Bergeron scored two consecutive goals, one with just under three minutes remaining in the second period and the other 2:05 into the third period, tying the game at 4-4. Bergeron’s first tally came off a loose puck in the crease, but it was initially a point shot by Chara that deflected off of Crawford’s shoulder and off the glass, bounced off the top of the net and back into the crease. Bergeron was the first to get his stick on it.
Bergeron’s second goal early in the third period resulted from great play between the Bruins center and Jaromir Jagr. Johnny Oduya won possession of the puck when Jagr went down the ice, but the veteran stayed with it and eventually Oduya turned it back over to the Bruins behind the net. Jagr and Bergeron ran a give-and-go along the boards to maintain possession before Bergeron popped out and one-timed the pass from Jagr between Crawford’s pad and his glove.
The Blackhawks got some offensive push throughout the third and Patrick Sharp scored the go-ahead goal at the 11:19 mark just as a short 5-on-3 advantage expired for the ‘Hawks. Marian Hossa put the puck on net through the traffic with Toews in front, and Sharp picked up the rebound and lifted it up to beat Rask and make it a 5-4 game.
Boston answered again 55 seconds after Sharp’s goal. The Bruins won a battle along the left side boards, which drew the attention of all five ‘Hawks. Nathan Horton made a quick pass to Johnny Boychuk on the weak side, and he had room to skate almost to the top of the circle and unleash a slap shot that beat Crawford cleanly to the glove side.
The teams would take the 5-5 lead through the end of regulation, resulting in the third overtime through four games in the series.
Crawford made a couple saves in overtime, including an early redirection chance for the Bruins, but it was players like Shaw, Seabrook, and Sharp that made plays in the defensive end to break up potentially good chances for the Bruins.
Brad Marchand got off a quick wrist shot after a faceoff and Crawford made one of his best saves of the extra session. The Blackhawks got the puck going the other way, and after sending the puck towards the net a couple times, Seabrook picked up a loose puck after a shot was blocked and fired a slap shot on net. The shot beat Rask to the stick side from pretty much the same area Seabrook scored his overtime goal in Game 7 against Detroit.
– The Bruins continually challenged Crawford’s glove side and scored all five of their goals to that side.
– The Blackhawks penalties kept the game close. The success of the PK has allowed the ‘Hawks to get away with that plenty of times this season, but both of Boston’s powerplay goals changed the complexion of the game.
– Sharp’s powerplay goal was the Blackhawks first conversion in their last 24 opportunities on the man advantage.
– Nick Leddy skated 2:37 of ice time in the entire game, glued to the bench through most of the second, third, and overtime periods. He had one good stretch pass, but otherwise I didn’t catch anything in particular during the game. With only five defensemen, Duncan Keith led all players with 32:37 of ice time while the remaining four finished in the 25-26 minute area.
– The Blackhawks got a lot more pucks through the Bruins defense – Boston blocked only 11 shots in the game. They were averaging closer to 20 blocked shots per 60 minutes coming into the Game 4.
– Faceoffs evened out, with only Handzus and Bolland finishing below 50% for the ‘Hawks. The Bruins had the smallest of advantages with 39 wins to Chicago’s 38.
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Patrick Kane… 2. Patrice Bergeron… 1. Brent Seabrook.
– Bryan Bickell and Michal Rozsival both finished with two assists and a plus-3 rating. Bickell led the Blackhawks with six hits.
– Game 5 will be Saturday at the United Center, beginning at 7pm central.