CHICAGO -- Good things come to those who wait.
But good times were few and far between for Boston Bruins' Chris Kelly when it came to scoring goals this season as the club's fourth-line center. It never mattered to the 32-year-old forward, however, that he only struck for three goals in 34 regular-season games, so long as he could contribute in other ways.
After a dismal opening period in which the Chicago Blackhawks thoroughly dominated the Bruins to open a 1-0 lead, it was Kelly's goal with 5:02 remaining in the second that pulled the visitors even to get his team going. His line would then combine for the game-winner by Daniel Paille 13:48 into the first overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory and even the Stanley Cup Final, 1-1.
"I think it's even more important to play the other parts of the game when you're not contributing offensively," Kelly said. "I think you need to pick up other aspects of your game. Everyone would love to score and score consistently but, for whatever reason, I haven't. I try to stay positive."
He always has remained positive and that's precisely why coach Claude Julien has so much faith in Kelly whenever he steps on the ice, in whatever role he plays.
"Just because he doesn't see himself as a goal-scorer doesn't mean he has to continue to have a goose egg on his stats," Julien said. "There's no doubt that that bothered him, but not to the point where it was going to stop him from coming in every game and giving an effort.”
Kelly was rewarded for his patience and determination on Saturday at a time when his team needed him most during Game 2 before 22,154 fans at United Center.
"He's been snake-bitten for quite a while and when you don't score, eventually, you get scored on and the minuses keep creeping up," Julien said. "That was certainly something that bothered him. I thought he played well [Saturday]. He's played well in some games but hasn't been able to produce. So [Saturday] is a good night for him, a good time to obviously have a great game."
Julien opted to change his lines after that first, when his team was outshot, 19-4, and decided to have Kelly center partner Paille and usual third-line right wing Tyler Seguin. The switch proved prophetic for the Bruins.
"We didn't have much going on and at one point I thought that line would give us something," Julien said. "They responded well and got both goals. It's a hunch from a coach. I know that Dan is a great skater and can make a lot of things happen. Seguin picked up his game after the first period and Kelly was one of the guys that was good right from the start."
Seguin made a great defensive play on the Kelly goal, lifting the stick of Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp that forced the turnover behind the net and allowed Paille to make a play on the puck.
Kelly said the bottom six forwards have all played together at certain times, so it wasn't as if they weren't accustomed to how their teammates perform.
"The bottom six have all played together at certain times; if it wasn't this year, last year, even the year before," he said. "I think Claude is just trying to find different chemistry with different guys. Claude has a pretty good feel for his players. I thought we went out there and played well."
Kelly's goal not only was his first in 23 games, but marked his first point of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was the first time he celebrated a goal since April 17 in a shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
"I think on my goal it was a great five-guy effort," Kelly said. "Andrew made a pinch, Tyler was in on the play and got it to Daniel, and Daniel took it to the net. I just happened to be there, tapped it in."
Paille did much of the digging behind the Blackhawks net before skating in front and getting a quick shot off on goal. The rebound squirted to a charging Kelly in the high slot. He put his stick down and drove the puck past goalie Corey Crawford to set the Boston wheels in motion.
While he showed little emotion speaking to the media after the victory, the game-tying goal had to feel good.
"You try to analyze your game after each game to see if you had opportunities," he said. "I felt in the Pittsburgh series, even the Rangers series, the scoring chances were starting to come a little bit more frequently. Those bounces were starting to kind of go my way.
"Like I said, I'd love to contribute on a regular basis, but I haven't so you try to do other things."
Other things like kill penalties on a regular basis, provide a big hit or win an important face-off.
"His effort and will to be a better player was always there. You're just waiting and hoping for that moment and [Saturday] was a great night for that to happen."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL
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