By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Hockey on its biggest stage, in its finest hour.
The clock struck midnight Thursday morning at the United Center and the hockey gods decided that after 112 grueling minutes on the ice, the Bruins and the Blackhawks needed to go home.
And with that, Michal Roszival’s shot from near the blue line pinballed off of Dave Bolland and then Andrew Shaw before sneaking past Tuukka Rask to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 triple overtime victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“You knew it wasn’t going to be pretty at that point,” Shaw said after the game.
Pretty it was not, yet it brought an end to a glorious, exhausting hockey game between two Original Six teams that gave everything they had.
It was so tiring that after the fifth longest game in Stanley Cup Final history, a well-schooled group of players and coaches could barely complete their interviews with the media. Duncan Keith, who played an incredible 48:40, had to sit down in the middle of his session with reporters. Head coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t wait to get in and out of his media obligations. And the man responsible for ending the game sort of forgot he was on live television.
“It was a great shot, a great tip,” Shaw told NBC on the ice moments after scoring the game-winner. “F**kin’, you know, it was unbelievable.”
Hey, at least it was late enough at the FCC might let it slide.
But really, it’s hard to describe what happened Wednesday evening at the United Center without dropping an F-bomb.
Two teams that hadn’t seen each other since Oct. 15, 2011 laid it all out on the ice for what was just one game of what could end up being a seven-game series.
Twice the Blackhawks trailed by two goals, but that didn’t stop them from coming back and forcing what ended up being three overtimes. Of course, it was none of the usual suspects who contributed. Andrew Saad and Dave Bolland both registered their first goals of the playoffs, while defenseman Johnny Oduya also stepped in to score his third of the postseason.
The Bruins put the Blackhawks in a deep 3-1 hole with 13:51 remaining in the game after Patrice Bergeron converted on the power play following a bad offensive zone tripping penalty by Michael Frolik. Without Frolik, one of the Hawks’ best penalty killers, it was only a matter of moments before the Bruins found the back of the net.
But the Hawks didn’t fold, with Bolland contributing his first goal of the playoffs less than two minutes later. Then, four minutes after that, Oduya’s shot was redirected off Andrew Ference’s skate and past Rask.
Again, not pretty, but effective for the Blackhawks.
And pretty would certainly not be the best way to explain Game 1, but that doesn’t make it any less memorable of a game. It wasn’t pretty because of how hard each team had to fight for every inch of the ice, especially after fatigue set in as overtime kept being extended.
“Both teams are just kicking, trying to survive,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ” 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.”
That mindset led to many opportunities for both teams, even as the legs got heavy. The Blackhawks peppered Tuuka Rask with 63 shots on goal, while the Bruins put 54 of their own on Corey Crawford.
“Can’t even put that into words,” Toews said when asked about his goaltender’s performance. “He made some unbelievable saves.”
But so did Rask — further adding to the entertainment value of Game 1.
A pad save here, a diving stop there and yes, even one shot by the Bruins that went off the post in the final seconds of the second overtime. Both goaltenders were on their game, making it nearly impossible to end the marathon.
“I think the guys were just glad the game ended,” Shaw said.
But only because there might be six additional games in store.
And yet, if Game 1 was the entire Stanley Cup Final, fans would be satisfied.
Luckily for them, there’s more.
Adam is as senior writer and columnist for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Chicago Bears and Chicago Blackhawks. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge and read more of his columns here.