BOSTON -- Throughout the day Wednesday, heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden, the expectation was that star forward Marian Hossa would return to the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup, even after he skipped the morning skate and was a surprise scratch in Game 3 on Monday. Hossa, however, didn't make the decision that he was good to go until moments before the puck dropped.
Regardless of when he got the green light to play, Hossa's return gave the Blackhawks a noticeable boost in a 6-5 overtime win that evened the best-of-7 series with the Boston Bruins at two games apiece. Perhaps just as important, it gave Chicago coach Joel Quenneville some much-needed flexibility with his lineup.
"I felt so-so, but the decision was for me to play and I'm glad I could help a little bit," Hossa said. "We have a couple of days off so it's nice, but we have to be ready for the next game [Saturday]."
Paired on a line with Patrick Sharp and Michal Handzus, Hossa helped lead the charge on the ice while giving the team an emotional lift with his presence in the dressing room. But his greatest contribution came midway through the third period as the Blackhawks enjoyed a power play.
With Jaromir Jagr coming out of the penalty box after serving a high-sticking penalty and David Krejci still serving a hooking minor, Hossa made a nifty play to get off a snapshot from the point that weaved through a maze of bodies in front of the net. Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask made the save, but Sharp was on the doorstep to bang it home and give the Blackhawks their first power-play goal of the series after failing on their previous 23 attempts with the man advantage.
The goal gave Chicago a momentary 5-4 lead that was negated 55 seconds later by Johnny Boychuk's goal, but it gave the Blackhawks a huge lift at the time.
"That was about as happy as I've been scoring a goal in my whole career," said Sharp, who was glad to be back on a line with Hossa. "You'll have to ask him how he was feeling. It was great playing with him. He does a lot of good things out there. He's probably not moving his best, but to see him in the lineup with what he's going through is a big boost for our team. I thought Handzus, Hossa and I had a good night as a line."
Hossa appeared to be moving gingerly at times throughout Game 4. And he gave his teammates a good scare early in the overtime period when, after getting off a quality shot on Rask, he slammed into the boards with Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid before getting up and limping to the bench.
He didn't miss a shift, a show of fortitude that helped inspire his team right up until Brent Seabrook's goal ended the game five minutes later.
"If you cannot go, you cannot go. I would feel useless. Today was a different decision, an extra day, so I decided I could help a little bit and I'm glad we won," Hossa said. "I just tried to find a way to help my team to play."
Hossa would not provide any updates on his condition following the game, but he'll likely enjoy a couple of days off as the series shifts back to Chicago for Game 5 on Saturday night at United Center. And while his name didn't show up all over the stat sheet Wednesday night, the veteran wing's gritty performance helped give Chicago a much-needed advantage in a series where both teams are fighting for every inch.
"It was huge. He got that shot through there on the power play," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Even just having his presence in the room and not on the ice is a big lift for us."