By Steve Silverman-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Shock and disbelief was the story for the Boston Bruins.
They came into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with a full dose of confidence after having swept the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins.
They thought they would do more of the same against the Chicago Blackhawks, especially after building a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
After all, they had given up two goals in an entire series to the Penguins. Surely, two would be enough against the Blackhawks.
It was not enough. The Bruins did not know they were facing the most relentless team they had seen all season.
They knew the Blackhawks were talented and dynamic, but they had so much confidence in their own ability that they simply thought they could take the will out of the Blackhawks.
They found out that was not the case as soon as Brandon Saad scored to cut the deficit to 2-1. That turned the United Center into a cacophony of noise and the sound and fury would not relent.
Not even when Patrice Bergeron restored the two-goal lead six minutes into the third period.
That turned up the Blackhawks’ intensity even further. They would tie the score on goals by Dave Bolland and Johnny Oduya.
And that was just the beginning. It would take three overtimes for the game to end, and it took a double-deflection that bounced off the leg of Andrew Shaw.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, hailed as a savior for his play against the Penguins, tried to shake the goal off as “one of those things.”
He dutifully met with reporters and gave confident answers, but he was clearly devastated. “That’s how it happens in overtime,” Rask said. “It’s usually some kind of fluky goal.
“From my perspective, it’s a shot from the point, a deflection and it goes in for the winner. On to the next game.”
Rask was not telling the full story. Michal Roszival tossed one towards Rask from the blue line and it hit Dave Bolland before going off of Shaw.
Huge Zdeno Chara was also exhausted and pained. He did not want to hear anything about the Bruins’ effort – he simply thought his team was not good enough.
“We have to find a way to hold a two-goal lead in the third period,” Chara said.
Claude Julien still had some fight left in him when he talked to the press. He said he was proud of his team’s effort and that it had bombarded Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford with shot after shot.
He was in no way ready to concede anything to the Blackhawks, no matter how devastating the defeat.
“It was one game and we could have won it,” Julien said. “I am not going to feel defeated. We’ve been down before and we’ve come back.”
Julien didn’t specify this year’s remarkable seventh-game win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that charge back from a three-goal deficit with just over 10 minutes to play in the third period had lit a fuse for the Bruins.
That fuse was sizzling until Shaw doused it with authority.
Outside the Bruins dressing room, team president Cam Neely was also quiet. In the Stanley Cup Final opener 23 years ago against the Edmonton Oilers, the Bruins also dropped a triple-overtime game. They lost the series in five games.
“Yes, this reminds me of that game,” Neely said. “But this time it will be different. We’ll come back.”
That’s brave talk. The Bruins might find a way to rally, but this was no ordinary defeat. Losing in triple overtime might have an impact that could last much longer than one day.
The Bruins will find out just how much of a hangover they have Saturday night at the United Center.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.