Corey Crawford stopped several flurries to preserve a 3-3 tie and send a riveting Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals to triple overtime on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks got third-period goals from Dave Bolland and Johnny Oduya to erase a 3-1 deficit and then Crawford was simply spectacular in the extra period.
He made a sprawled-out pad save on Shawn Thornton about four minutes into OT, and he stood his ground in a flurry with just under eight minutes remaining, stopping Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the rebound to draw oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
Brandon Saad, who was a Mahoning Valley Phantom during the 2008-09 season, scored Chicago’s first goal in the second period. The 20-year-old left winger from Cranberry, Pa., is a Blackhawks rookie.
In the first championship meeting in 34 years between Original Six franchises, Milan Lucic scored twice and Patrice Bergeron added a power-play goal just more than six minutes into the third to give Boston a 3-1 lead. But the Blackhawks came storming back after that.
Andrew Shaw picked off a clearing attempt by Torey Krug and fed Bolland on a two-on-one rush to pull Chicago within one with 12 minutes left in regulation. Lucic then got stopped on a two-on-one by Crawford midway through the third, and Oduya tied it for Chicago when his shot from the point deflected off Andrew Ference and bounced past Tuukka Rask.
Just like that, the Blackhawks were back in it. Crawford fought off a big flurry by Boston in the closing minutes, and the game went to overtime with Chicago outshooting Boston 39-25 after getting off to a slow start.
The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead at the 13:11 mark of the opening period after David Krejci knocked Niklas Hjalmarsson off the puck along the boards behind the net. He fed a pass to Nathan Horton, who feathered the puck across to Lucic for an easy wrist shot from the slot in front of Crawford.
Lucic struck again just 51 seconds into the second period with another wrist shot after Hjalmarsson gambled along the boards and fell, allowing Boston to break in.
Chicago started to come on strong after that.
The Blackhawks got on the board just over two minutes later when Saad scored his first goal of the playoffs. He carried the puck down the ice but was bumped off it in the left corner of the Boston zone. Marian Hossa recovered it and fed Saad in the slot, making it 2-1 and bringing the sellout crowd to their feet.
The Blackhawks’ momentum came screeching to a halt on a power play — make that a two-man advantage — midway through the second.
A big issue during the regular season, it continues to haunt the Blackhawks in the playoffs.
They came in 7 for 51 on the power play — 12th among the 16 playoff teams — and that number took another hit when they couldn’t convert a five-on three advantage, Horton got called for interference at 7:37 and the Bruins were whistled for having too many men on the ice at 8:20, but Chicago came away empty.
Before Saad’s tally, Rask had not given up a goal in 149:36 — he gave up only two goals in a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh — and he saved 44 shots through the first OT for the Bruins, who are seeking their second title in three years.
Crawford made 34 stops through the first OT for the Blackhawks, back in the finals for the first time since their championship run three years ago, didn’t get much going in this one.
Not since the Montreal Canadiens knocked off the New York Rangers in five games in 1979 had Original Six teams played for the championship. But both these teams have been here, done that, with Chicago winning it all in 2010 and Boston taking the championship the following season.
For the Blackhawks, it was a long climb back.
The buzzer had barely stopped ringing after Patrick Kane scored the winning goal against Philadelphia to end a 49-year championship drought when the bulldozer hit Chicago. Salary cap issues forced the Blackhawks to part with a long line of supporting players, and the result was back-to-back first-round playoff losses.
But things sure came together this year. From a 24-game points streak to start to capturing the Presidents’ Trophy at the end, no team dominated like Chicago during the regular season. In the playoffs, things haven’t been as easy. The Blackhawks took out Minnesota in five games, but had to rally to beat Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals.
They won that one in seven games and didn’t blink facing arguably the league’s hottest goalie in the conference finals. Instead, they took out Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings, winning Game 5 in overtime on Patrick Kane’s third goal of the game to get to this point.
The Bruins, meanwhile, nearly got eliminated in the first round but have been on a roll ever since.
It’s a big reversal after they blew a 3-1 series lead in Round 1 against Toronto and fell behind by three in the seventh game.
Then they did something no other team had done. They became the first team in league history to take a Game 7 after trailing by three in the third, with Patrice Bergeron scoring the tying and winning goals. Since then, they’ve made it look easier.
They beat the New York Rangers in five games and swept Pittsburgh, never trailing and allowing just two goals in the series while keeping former MVPs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin without a point.
Now, here they are, the physical Bruins going against high-flying Blackhawks. Both teams came in with hot goalies, with Rask posting a league playoff-high .943 save percentage for Boston and Crawford not far behind at .935. A big question for the Blackhawks was how they would get around the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara. Coach Joel Quenneville decided to split up Jonathan Toews and Kane and keep one of his biggest stars away from the big defender, after they played on the same line for the last part of the Los Angeles series.