CHICAGO - By the time it ended, the Chicago Blackhawks' comeback was a distant memory. It almost didn't matter that the Boston Bruins blew a two-goal lead in the third period.
Almost an entire game was played after regulation ended, capped by Andrew Shaw's game-winner at 12:08 of triple overtime that gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at United Center and a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final. It was the fifth longest game in Cup final history.
After 112 minutes of hockey, the fatigue was noticeable. More than 100 shots were put on goal, more than 100 hits levelled and more than 100 faceoffs taken.
But all that mattered was a double deflection, a point shot by Michal Rozsival that went off David Bolland and Shaw that finished the Blackhawks' comeback that began hours earlier.
When Michael Frolik tripped Zdeno Chara to set up Patrice Bergeron's power-play goal for Boston early in the third, it looked like the Blackhawks would surrender home-ice advantage. They trailed 3-1 with 13:51 left.
But it didn't take long for the Presidents' Trophy-winners to mount a comeback. When Bolland scored his first goal of the playoffs eight minutes into the third, it was more than enough to wake up a restless, sellout crowd of 22,110.
All of a sudden United Center was loud and the Blackhawks buzzed in the offensive zone. After outshooting the Bruins since the first intermission with little to show for it against goaltender Tuukka Rask, all it took was a favourable bounce to tie the score.
Johnny Oduya threw the puck toward the net and it deflected off Boston defenceman Andrew Ference's left skate and in at the 12:14 mark of the third.
For most of the night, a storybook ending for the Blackhawks looked unlikely. Led by David Krejci and Milan Lucic, the Bruins looked just as bit as strong as they did in sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.
Krejci avoided a hit from Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson, leading to the Bruins' first goal 13:11 into the first period. Krejci won a puck battle, setting up a tic-tac-toe play with Horton and Lucic that finished with the puck in the net behind Corey Crawford.
Even after the Blackhawks found some rhythm, Lucic and Krejci teamed up for another. In the first minute of the second period, Lucic beat Patrick Kane along the boards in the neutral zone to start a give-and-go with Krejci. Lucic's quick release was too much for Crawford, who earlier in the game made a highlight-reel glove on Brad Marchand to quell the Bruins' momentum.
Momentum doesn't take much to shift, and Calder Trophy finalist Brandon Saad made it happen with his goal 3:08 into the second. Saad absorbed a big hit from Dennis Seidenberg but got back into the right position for Marian Hossa after a Bruins turnover, blasting one by Rask for his first of the playoffs. It was the first goal allowed by Rask in the last 70 shots he faced.
The Blackhawks then had ample opportunity to tie the score. Nathan Horton took the series' first penalty for interference 7:37 into the second, and then Boston was called for too many men on the ice.
On the ensuing power plays, including 1:17 of five-on-three time, the Blackhawks managed some solid puck possession but little else. They didn't register a shot on net on the five-on-three.
A high-sticking penalty on Chara soon after gave the Blackhawks more hope. One shot and no goals later, the Bruins extended their penalty-killing streak to 19 and appeared to be in control.
But then the Blackhawks got rolling and eventually outlasted the Bruins in this classic.