Big win for Boston in a key game. They tie the Stanly Cup Finals at one apiece and, in the process, they demonstrate they can win in a very tough building.
If the Bruins don’t prevail, they have to win four of the remaining five. And you just don’t want to put yourself in that spot against a team like the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s most impressive about Boston’s Game Two victory though is what they had to withstand to get the result they wanted.
Chicago came out of the gates and played a very inspired first period. Shots on goal after one, 19-4 Chicago. The ice was tilted heavily in the home team’s favor; that’s as determined a period as I’ve seen played in this year’s playoffs. The Bruins can thank Tuukka Rask that they didn’t come out of the opening period down by three or four goals.
Patrick Sharp opens the scoring after a wild flurry in Boston’s end. Immediately preceding this play, the NBC analysts highlighted a total of four Blackhawks under the hash marks trying to bang one past Rask. The puck ultimately pops out of the low slot, Sharp tracks it down, turns and fires through a mass of humanity in front of the Boston net. How this gets through, I’m not sure. In any case, it’s 1-0 Chicago and the Madhouse erupts as the Hawks open the scoring.
Chris Kelly gets Boston back to even 14:58 into the second period. He crashes down from the point where he’d been filling in for a pinching Andrew Ference. Kelly sees the play develop as Daniel Paille, from under the Chicago goal line, puts a nifty little inside move on Nick Leddy to give himself the space to get it to the front of the net. Kelly is able to pop it up and over a sprawling Crawford as the puck comes loose off of Paille’s stick.
From there, the rest of Game Two is played even up in terms of the pace of play and territorial advantage. One notable distinction. Open ice is very hard to come by. In truth, from the second period on this game is played very close to the vest. Neither team is giving up much and high grade chances are few in number. There’s just not a lot of space to operate.
And after Wednesday night’s triple OT extravaganza, players on both rosters have to be rolling their eyes as Game Two also cannot be decided in regulation. As a player, you budget your physical resources for three 20 minute periods. So when you can’t reach a conclusion inside of three periods, you begin tapping into reserves you hadn’t expected to use. Or perhaps reserves you didn’t realize you had for that matter.
When the stakes are this high, any chip, any pass, or any small misstep can be the key to the game. That certainly was the case as Brandon Bollig attempted to control a puck ringed around the outside wall inside Chicago’s zone.
Andrew McQuaid steps up and slides the turnover down to Tyler Seguin on the half wall. A quick feed across the high slot to Daniel Paille. And Paille wastes no time getting off a stiff snap shot that beats Crawford far side off the post and in. Bruins win and we’ve got a ties series.
Notable performances came from the following. Both goaltenders played very well; though Rask overshadows his counterpart Crawford largely due to the incredible first period he had while holding Chicago to just one goal. In terms of the skaters, there was no better for the Hawks than Patrick Sharp. Scored Chicago’s only goal, had seven shots on net, and I’m not sure I’ve seen him skate stronger this year. He was a force.
However, Daniel Paille was a difference maker on this night. He was directly responsible for both Boston goals; he made big league plays on each.
A playoff series doesn’t get interesting until the team with home ice advantage loses a game in its building? I would argue this one was plenty interesting even before Boston did what few NHL teams have done this year. But there’s no denying now; Chicago has met a formidable playoff opponent in the Bruins.
See you around the rink.