CHICAGO — The puck pinged off the crossbar. The sound rang around the rink. You couldn’t hear what Jaromir Jagr howled, but you could see him look to the heavens, open his mouth wide and let it out long and loud.
“I said, ‘God. Where are you?’ ” Jagr said.
Was it going to happen again? Were the Boston Bruins going to strike iron but not gold like they did in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, coming so close to winning so many times in so many overtimes, only to lose?
Jagr keeps religious icons in his locker. He is a former NHL MVP, a former league scoring champion, a two-time Cup champion. But all his saints, all his skill, all his experience and all his accomplishments haven’t bought him a goal in these playoffs, and they didn’t help him 1:28 into OT on Saturday night. This is hockey.
But then, so is this. The Chicago Blackhawks threw the puck around the boards. It got away from Brandon Bollig, and the Bruins were there. Adam McQuaid kept it in the zone, Tyler Seguin sent it across and Daniel Paille snapped it at the net from the top of the left circle.
The puck pinged off the right post. The sound rang around the rink. But instead of going off the iron and out – like it had in the overtimes in Game 1, like it had in this overtime to Jagr – it went off the iron and in at 13:48. The Bruins won, 2-1, tying the series, 1-1.
[Photo gallery: Game 2 Bruins-Blackhawks in action]
Joy? Not exactly.
“Just relief that the game was over,” Paille said.
No triple-OT heartbreak this time. No daunting deficit, either.
“Huge relief,” Jagr said. “This is a game about inches. Hit the post there, then they come back and they score. Instead of 1-1, now it’s 2-0. You’re in big, huge pressure. I truly think we deserved to win in overtime. We had so many chances. But there’s no such word ‘deserve,’ because it’s sometimes more about the luck.”
This is what this series deserves, though. These teams have played more than three games’ worth of hockey in two games – 185 minutes and 56 seconds spread over 10 periods. It has been back and forth – sometimes in terms of action, sometimes in terms of momentum. It could be 2-0 Boston, or 2-0 Chicago, and so 1-1 feels about right.
The Bruins blew a 3-1 lead in Game 1. They gave up the tying goal on a bad bounce off a skate. After failing to cash in on their chances in overtime, they gave up the winning goal on a double deflection.
The Blackhawks blew a 1-0 lead in Game 2. More importantly, they blew a chance to extend it. But after dominating the first period and the early part of the second, they lost their edge and didn’t get the breaks this time.
“We definitely were in survival mode there for a bit,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. “It looked like they had more guys out there than we did. They were (pouncing) on every single puck in front of the net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad.”
How lopsided was the first?
“If somebody would watch the first period,” Jagr said, “they would say, ‘Give them the Cup right now.’ ”
The Blackhawks outshot the Bruins, 19-4. They had 30 shot attempts to the Bruins’ five – and one of the Bruins’ shot attempts was from the neutral zone. The Bruins outhit the Blackhawks, 21-9, but that was mainly because they didn’t have the puck and had to do something.
The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead when Patrick Sharp whirled and fired from the right circle. Michal Handzus could have been called for goaltender interference but wasn’t. The ’Hawks almost made it 2-0 shortly afterward when Marian Hossa jammed at Rask’s pads and the puck crossed the goal line, but the referee had blown the play dead, apparently because he lost sight of the puck. The ’Hawks had other chances; Rask stoned them.
[Watch: Daniel Paille scores OT winner to tie Stanley Cup Final series 1-1]
“We just weren’t there,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We were on our heels.”
So Julien had what he called “a bit of a chat” with the boys during the first intermission. They were being outskated. They were being outcompeted. They were being embarrassed. Julien shook up his bottom six, putting together Paille, Seguin and Chris Kelly. He called it a “hunch from a coach.”
First, the Bruins stopped the bleeding. Then they drew a little blood of their own. They had only seven shots three-quarters of the way through the second period when Paille grabbed the puck at the end boards and took it to the net. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made the save, but the rebound popped out. Kelly, who hadn’t scored in the playoffs, drove the net and finally got one to go in. Brad Marchand almost made it 2-0 not long afterward on a shorthanded semi-breakaway, taking a slash from Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook – no call – and hitting the right post. Inches.
“We had the perfect start to the game, then we stopped doing what made us successful,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “We stood around. They countered.”
The third period looked like the second or third overtime from Wednesday night – cautious play, few chances, fatigue. It seemed to be catching up with both teams. But then came overtime, and new life. A crossbar for Jagr. A chance for Kelly. A chance for Andrew Shaw, the 21-year-old kid whose shinpad scored the triple-OT winner in Game 1. Shaw could have been the hero again. But Rask gloved the puck, and then, finally, the hockey gods were there for Boston.
Paille. Ping. Post.
“If you have a bad heart, you might not watch the game because you might get a heart attack,” said Jagr, the 41-year-old with gray stubble on his chin. “For young people, it’s pretty exciting to watch. Old people don’t watch it. You might die just watching it.”
Imagine playing it.
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