But with the unpleasant possibility of falling within one loss of elimination, the Blackhawks found a way to dictate terms in Game 4 -- but what transpired at TD Garden might have been a little crazier than even they would have liked.
Brent Seabrook capped a wild night when he scored 9:51 into overtime Wednesday to give the Blackhawks a series-tying 6-5 victory in an instant classic that bore little resemblance to the first three games of the series. This Final is even at two victories each, with Game 5 at United Center on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
After scoring just one goal in Games 2 and 3, the Blackhawks lit things up on Wednesday.
"It [was] time to put all those other games behind us -- the games where we struggled to score, forget about it, just find a way to do what you do," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "It was fun to see the puck go in as often as it did tonight. We know we can be better defensively. But we'll use that confidence and try our best to pounce on them in [Game 5]."
Chicago twice led by two goals before Boston drew even in the third period, then led 5-4 with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation before the Bruins scored to force overtime. There were wild sequences that led to highlight-reel saves, fluky bounces that led to goals -- and everything in between.
The Blackhawks put Boston in a two-goal hole for the first time since the Bruins trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 in Game 7 of the opening round. They forced the typically patient Bruins to play a wide-open style hockey -- not the way Claude Julien's team wants to play.
"It is not fun. We battled back many times, didn't make it easy on ourselves," said Rask, who had shut out Blackhawks for more than 122 minutes entering Game 4. "At the end of the day, it is a one-goal game and they get it. We just made it too tough on ourselves. Not our best night."
Seabrook's goal was his third of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the second in overtime. It came from a similar place on the ice as the goal Seabrook scored 3:35 OT of Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings to advance the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Final.
Seabrook collected the puck near the Stanley Cup Final logo at the top of the Boston zone, skated toward the right circle and stepped into a low slap shot that headed toward the far post. Toews, who had snapped a long scoring drought earlier by getting to the front of the net for a deflection, was able to shield Boston captain Zdeno Chara from the shot and Rask wasn't able to stretch to his right in time.
"It's exciting," Seabrook said. "Everybody worked so hard tonight, everybody's worked so hard through the playoffs, we're all contributing. It doesn't matter if I score, or anybody else scores; it's nice to get the win and move on to the next day. I think it's definitely exciting to score in an overtime game, an overtime goal. But at the end of the day it's just a win and we still need two more, so..."
This was the first time a Stanley Cup Final game ended in overtime and featured more than 10 goals since the New York Islanders defeated the Vancouver Canucks in 6-5 in Game 1 of the 1982 Final. It was the first to finish with a 6-5 final score since the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the 2010 Final.
After a relatively tame first 25 minutes, a tip-in goal by Toews gave Chicago a 2-1 lead at 6:33 of the second period and triggered something that resembled loosely controlled chaos.
Toews hadn't scored since the Detroit series, but he did help Patrick Kane break out of a similar slump late in the conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings. They were back together for the first time since the Final started, and Kane made it a 3-1 lead a little more than two minutes after Toews' goal with his seventh of the playoffs.
"I've got to say this -- the last couple days Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I'm thinking about," Toews said. "You know, I have to give him the right answer: 'I'm thinking about scoring a goal.' 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."
The public address announcer was still finishing the goal call when Marcus Kruger restored Chicago's two-goal advantage at 15:32. Rask made an amazing save on Kruger's first attempt -- a backhanded shot after collecting a pass from Michal Frolik on a 2-on-1 against Chara -- but Kruger was able to stop near the goal line and tuck the rebound into the net for his third goal of the playoffs.
Kane took an ill-advised offensive-zone penalty, and the Bruins scored their second power-play goal of the night to get back within one again at 17:22. Chara's shot from the top of the offensive zone deflected high over the net, hit the glass behind Crawford, bounced off the top of the Blackhawks net and came right to Patrice Bergeron in the crease. Bergeron had an easy tap-in before Crawford could find the puck.
Boston tied the contest 4-4 2:05 into the third period on Bergeron's second of the game and ninth of the postseason, tying David Krejci for the team lead. Jaromir Jagr, who became the 19th player in NHL history to appear in 200 Stanley Cup Playoff games, earned his second assist of the game when he set up Bergeron for a one-timer from near the top of the right circle
Chicago's Patrick Sharp had several great chances earlier in the game denied by Rask. But on his eighth shot of the night, he jammed home the rebound of Marian Hossa's power-play shot from the high slot at 11:19. It was Sharp's 10th goal, the most of anyone in this year's playoffs, and Chicago's first power-play goal in 15 tries in the series.
The lead lasted only 55 seconds before defenseman Johnny Boychuk's blast from the right point beat Crawford to make it 5-5.
Both teams traded chances before regulation ended, and the Bruins had the better of play in OT before Seabrook scored.
"It is a 10-goal game after three, so I think both teams are kind of like not playing their best defensively," Rask said. "It is kind of attack, attack and hope that the other team makes a mistake. Today, it was us."
The two teams traded goals in the first period. Michal Handzus gave Chicago the lead at 6:48 when he converted a 2-on-1 with rookie Brandon Saad for a shorthanded goal. But Saad's giveaway led to an unassisted power-play goal by Rich Peverley at 14:43.
Boston came into this contest with a 2-1 series lead after back-to-back strong defensive efforts. Chicago captured Game 1 with a goal from Andrew Shaw in the third overtime of the fifth-longest game in Cup Final history. The Bruins responded with an overtime win of its own in Game 2 on a goal from Daniel Paille and then shut out the Blackhawks 2-0 in Game 3.
Now the series shifts back to Chicago, but with an extra off day for the Bruins to stew about their lack of defensive structure and for the Blackhawks to figure out how to sustain their newfound ability to create chances against Rask and his defense.
"It is definitely not our style of game," Bergeron said of the up-tempo contests. "We need to tighten up in our zone and also in the neutral zone. The fact is with their speed -- this is what they want. There are some things we haven't done right.
"You got to bring your best. It is time to focus on Game 5 now. There is nothing you can do about the previous four. We're even, and it is about the best-of-3 now. You have to look at it that way, and go out and be ready for Game 5."
|SHG - Michal Handzus (3) ASST: Brandon Saad (5)|
1 - 0 CHI
|PPG - Rich Peverley (2) ASST: Andrew Ference (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jonathan Toews (2) ASST: Michal Rozsival (3)|
2 - 1 CHI
|Patrick Kane (7) ASST: Bryan Bickell (6), Michal Rozsival (4)|
3 - 1 CHI
|Milan Lucic (6) ASST: Zdeno Chara (11)|
3 - 2 CHI
|Marcus Kruger (3) ASST: Michael Frolik (5), Dave Bolland (3)|
4 - 2 CHI
|PPG - Patrice Bergeron (8) ASST: Zdeno Chara (12), Jaromir Jagr (9)|
4 - 3 CHI
|Patrice Bergeron (9) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (10)|
4 - 4 Tie
|PPG - Patrick Sharp (10) ASST: Marian Hossa (9), Duncan Keith (10)|
5 - 4 CHI
|Johnny Boychuk (6) ASST: Nathan Horton (12), David Krejci (15)|
5 - 5 Tie
|1st OT Period|
|Brent Seabrook (3) ASST: Bryan Bickell (7), Patrick Kane (10)|
6 - 5 CHI
|Johnny Oduya Interference against Tyler Seguin|
|Duncan Keith Hooking against Chris Kelly|
|Andrew Shaw Roughing against Chris Kelly|
|Chris Kelly Roughing against Andrew Shaw|
|Nathan Horton Slashing against Johnny Oduya|
|Duncan Keith Tripping against Rich Peverley|
|Shawn Thornton Too many men/ice - bench|
|Patrick Kane Hooking against Torey Krug|
|Jonathan Toews Hi-sticking against Nathan Horton|
|Jaromir Jagr Hi-sticking against Duncan Keith|
|David Krejci Hooking against Patrick Kane|
|1st OT Period|