CHICAGO -- They weren't in the mood to use excuses afterward, even though one seemed obvious for the Chicago Blackhawks to take following Saturday night's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After dominating the first period and continuing to play well in the first 10 minutes of the second, it all went away from them in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins at United Center that evened this best-of-7 series at one game apiece.
It looked like their legs were spent after the previous two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each went multiple overtimes, but the Blackhawks refused to accept that crutch.
"No excuse there at all," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "You've got to keep your shifts short. We're rolling four lines. That shouldn't be a problem. We just kind of let them play their game and we didn't make them earn it. That's a little disappointing considering that."
Whatever the problem was, it started about midway through the second with the Blackhawks still leading 1-0 and trying to push for the all-important next goal. After out-shooting the Bruins 19-4 in the opening 20 minutes, Chicago just seemed to progressively run out of gas.
The Bruins also began mucking things up in the neutral zone and slowing the game down -- strategies that worked to their advantage the rest of the game. Chris Kelly soon tied it with 5:02 left in the second by jamming home a rebound and suddenly the game had an entirely different feel.
Not getting at least a second goal past Rask in that overwhelming surge in the first came back to haunt the Blackhawks at the end - when a turnover led to Daniel Paille's game-winning tally in OT -- and now they're faced with two games in a row at TD Garden in Boston.
"We came out with a boatload of shots in the first period and we got one goal, which is good, but we've got to find a way to build on that because the next goal proved to be a big one," Toews said. "They believed they could come back in that game when they got that first one. When you have the momentum, you've got to keep it and try your best to hang onto it as long as you can."
It's not the first time the Blackhawks have experienced this trend.
Despite grinding down teams pretty much all season, there have been lulls for the Blackhawks. In fact, there have been lulls in most of Chicago's postseason games thus far, but it is such a deep and talented team that those lapses typically don't cost games.
This time, the lull in their pressure continued to grow and they only got the momentum back in brief bursts - most of which Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask countered without too much trouble.
"We had the perfect start to the game, [and] then we stopped doing what made us successful," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We stood around. They countered. I thought we slowed ourselves down. I don't think we got the puck behind them. I think we were in front of them too much. I think that played into their hands."
Rask making some great saves to keep Chicago from running away with it in that first period also played a big role. He was even great on the Blackhawks' goal, which Patrick Sharp scored by wheeling and firing a wrister from the half wall in the right circle following a mad scramble.
Rask made the initial stop on a backhander off the rush by Patrick Kane, made another stop on Kane's rebound attempt and then stopped a slapper by Michal Rozsival before Sharp scooped it and took it out to the circle to launch his shot.
The Blackhawks also thought a puck had gotten past Rask on a wraparound attempt by Toews just 1:10 after Sharp's goal, but a video review upheld referee Wes McCauley's call of no-goal because it was ruled he intended to blow the play dead after losing sight of the puck.
Regardless of the goal being disallowed, it felt, at that point, like the Blackhawks would just keep peppering Rask with shots until he finally crumbled - similar to what happened with Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the Western Conference Final.
The Bruins regrouped in the first intermission and steadily started to change the game through the middle period. Rask only faced nine shots in the final 40 minutes of regulation and six more in overtime, which ended with Paille's goal.
"I think we maybe [let it get] away there a little bit," Blackhawks center Dave Bolland said. "We had some chances. We had some things there, but we've just got to keep our foot on that pedal and keep getting those pucks to the net."
It's going to be considerably more difficult now, with the next two games in Boston. The Bruins haven't lost there since the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and they should be buoyed by stealing home-ice advantage away despite dropping a marathon triple-OT game on Wednesday in the series opener.
If the Blackhawks are going to steal home-ice back, they'll have to map out exactly what happened in Game 2 - especially if fatigue wasn't to blame.
"We came out, we had legs, we had jump and then for whatever reason they took over the second half of the game," Sharp said. "We talked for a couple days about attacking and funneling pucks to the net and using our speed as an advantage and we clearly did that in the first period - and for whatever reason, we didn't sustain it throughout the game. That's something we'll look at over the next two days and try to figure out."
|Back to top|