CHICAGO — Please forgive Andrew Shaw. He was tired, and it was late – just past midnight in Chicago, just past 1 a.m. in Boston. The FCC won’t be happy with NBC, but in his delirium, the 21-year-old kid spoke the truth. Bleeping right it was unbelievable.
The Blackhawks and the Bruins needed almost two games’ worth of hockey to decide Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final – 120 hits, 117 shots, 114 faceoffs in more than 112 minutes – and in the end the difference was a double deflection in triple overtime.
Michal Rozsival fired from the point. The puck deflected off the stick of David Bolland in the slot, ricocheted off the leg of Shaw in front and squeaked into the net 12:08 into the sixth period, and the Blackhawks won, 4-3. The fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup final history was over. And to think: This series is just beginning.
Shaw spoke to NBC’s Pierre McGuire on the ice under a spotlight in a darkened arena, “Chelsea Dagger” playing in the background, the fans still buzzing.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty at this point,” Shaw said on national television in the United States. “It was a great shot, a great setup … [Bleeping] … It was unbelievable. All the guys, we deserved it.”
[Watch: Andrew Shaw swears on national TV after scoring OT winner]
Yeah, he said it.
“Slip of the tongue,” said Shaw in the interview room later, smiling in a calmer moment. “I couldn’t think at all, actually. Could barely breathe. I think I made up a word in there, too, actually. I was never good in English.”
Not to be too breathless, but there were no words for this.
The night began with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual state-of-the-league news conference, a Q&A about all that is bad about the game and the business – the Olympic deal that still isn’t done, the future of the Phoenix Coyotes that still isn’t settled, the lockout that still isn’t six months into history.
Yet the night became about all that is good about the game and the business – two Original Six teams, two recent champions, playing in a packed house, vying to become the first two-time Cup winner in the salary-cap era, generating gobs of hockey-related revenue and giving everyone full value.
This was the kind of game that justified the love hardcore fans have for the NHL despite its flaws, and this was the kind of game that might have intrigued casual fans and even others who just clicked on the TV expecting Leno.
Even though these teams hadn’t faced each other for more than 600 days – partly because of the lockout-shortened season – they looked like old rivals. They came out hitting. They went back and forth all night long. Both teams carried the play for stretches. Both teams bounced back when things went against them. Both teams battled through three OTs when their lungs and legs were burning.
“Both teams are just kicking, trying to survive,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “Every time you go back on the ice, you just try and get that feeling that it’s just going to be that one chance that makes the difference. Obviously we got a big one with Shaw going to the net there.”
For Boston, the loss was brutal. The Bruins took a 3-1 lead in the third period when Patrice Bergeron pinged a shot in off a post on a power play. But then Torey Krug, a 22-year-old rookie defenseman, playing only his 13th NHL game, threw the puck up the middle. Shaw blocked it at the Boston blue line and fed Bolland for a goal. Then Johnny Oduya fired from the point, and the puck glanced off the inside of the skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and into the net.
And then came the overtimes.
The Bruins had two power plays when the Blackhawks were caught with too many men on the ice twice. In the first OT, Nathan Horton hit a post (and left with an injury). In the second OT, Tyler Seguin couldn’t score on a semi-breakaway and Zdeno Chara fired a shot that hit the skate of Jaromir Jagr and clanked off a post. In the third OT, Kaspars Daugavins, playing only his third game of the playoffs, could have redirected a pass past Crawford. He made a move instead, and he had Crawford down and out, but he couldn’t get off a backhand shot. After he came back to the bench, he rested his forehead on top of the boards. Inches. Seconds. Hockey.
[Related: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask: 'We just gave it away']
“Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “It never stopped us from coming back. This certainly won’t. When you look at the game, it could have gone either way. I thought we had some real good looks in overtime. With a little bit of luck, we could have ended it before they did. But that’s the name of the game.”
For Chicago, the victory was a relief. The Blackhawks were awful on the power play, even during a 5-on-3, and fell into that 3-1 hole. But at the end of regulation, they had 78 shot attempts to the Bruins’ 40. They had controlled more of the game. They had come back to tie it. They faltered in the overtimes, taking those two too-many-men penalties, breaking down defensively. But Crawford kept them in it, kept giving them a chance.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Oduya said. “You can feel it as the game goes longer. Every play could be the difference. It’s just tremendous. You feel alive.”
Just look at the numbers: The Blackhawks finished with 63 shots, the Bruins 54. The Bruins blocked 40 shots, the Blackhawks 23. The Blackhawks delivered 61 hits, the Bruins 59. The Blackhawks won 58 faceoffs, the Bruins 56. Chicago's Duncan Keith played 48:40, Boston's Dennis Seidenberg 48:36.
“The hockey world is watching,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp. “To put out an effort like that for both sides, it was fun to be a part of. Thankfully it’s over. Boston was everything that we expected. They’re a fast skating team. They’re physical. They play well defensively. So it’s going to be a really tough series.”
Should be bleeping unbelievable.
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