BOSTON — Remember that Tuukka Rask story, the one about the Boston goaltender’s frighteningly good save percentage and goals-against average and Conn Smythe-in-the-making? No?
How about the one lauding the Boston Bruins’ suffocating team defence and iron resolve and unbreakable blueline giant, Zdeno Chara? Or wait: the one about Jonathan Toews’s inability to put the puck in the ocean off the end of the pier, or the Bruins’ impregnable penalty kill, or the Blackhawks’ pitiful power play -- or the one that questioned whether there was anyone inside Patrick Kane’s uniform, or if it was skating out there on the perimeter, button-hooking and losing the puck all by itself.
Or the one about Hawks goalie Corey Crawford and his impending invite to the Canadian Olympic team camp this summer, because ... well, by default, really, but still.
Irrelevant now, all of them.
Wednesday was the night all previous suppositions died a delightful death. They disappeared in a shower of ice, in a flurry of goals, in a game that skated away from coaching, deaf to the protestations of Claude Julien and Joel Quenneville, listening only to its own racing pulse right to the end of regulation time, and beyond.
“I hope it was entertaining for you guys. Personally, I didn't really like that at all, as a defenceman. Five goals against is too much for me. I was on the ice for three of them,” said Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson, after Brent Seabrook ended it on a pinball play of aborted passes and ricocheted shots, burying a long, screened slapper past Rask at 9:51 of overtime for a 6-5 victory that knotted the series 2-2.
“It was a big game, nice to get a few past Tuukka,” said Seabrook, who also scored the overtime winner in Game 7 to eliminate Detroit in the second round.
“I guess it was just our turn to score again,” said Kane. “It was a fun game to play, but you want to protect those leads a little better than we did.”
After three overtime games in the first four, the teams will get an extra day’s rest before Game 5 Saturday in Chicago.
“It was certainly a tough outing for us tonight,” said Julien, whose team seemed to abandon all its defensive tenets. “The (Hawks) came out hard, played extremely well. "There was a lot of our game tonight that was just average, and average isn't good enough at this stage of the season.”
For the first time since the opening period of Game 2, the Blackhawks looked fully engaged, using their speed and causing headaches for a Bruins team that had frustrated them to distraction for more than six periods.
It didn’t seem so difficult, Wednesday, to believe these Hawks were the same ones who won the Presidents’ Trophy.
They knew they were getting killed on faceoffs, and just like that, they fixed it.
They hadn’t scored on the power play: Patrick Sharp did. Toews, mired in a mystifying slump, tipped in a Michal Rozsival shot for just his second goal of the playoffs. Kane, pretty much MIA until Wednesday, when Quenneville put him back on a line with Toews and big Bryan Bickell, scored, too. Michal Handzus tallied shorthanded. They scored five goals while Chara was on the ice.
And even with so much going right, they couldn’t shake the Bruins. Back and forth they went -- Chicago on the board first, then up 3-1, 4-2, then tied again when Patrice Bergeron scored twice.
Asked why he waited so long to put Kane and Toews back together, Quenneville smiled.
“You know, I think we didn't mind the way we played the first game, first part of the second game,” he said. “Game 3 we were disappointed with our offense. So we went to the well. I'm sure they're excited about returning together. Maybe it looks like I didn't know what I was doing.”
Sharp’s go-ahead goal midway through the third was countered 55 seconds later by a Johnny Boychuk rocket from the blueline -- all five Boston goals were scored on Crawford’s catching glove, which (credit where it’s due) Sports Illustrated’s Sarah Kwak said he must have been wearing just to keep his left hand warm -- and off to extra time they went.
“They've got the ability to put some pucks in the net, too,” said Sharp, whose goal was his playoff-leading 10th. “I think whatever style of play it's gonna be out there, it's gonna be evenly matched. "We talked about using our speed, attacking, trying to play on the inside and get to the net and it resulted in a bunch of goals. We'll see how things play out the rest of the way.”
The game had a hellacious pace, and there were a multitude of chances as both ends, and neither fatigue nor intermissions could slow it down.
When Julien, the Boston coach, called a time out in self-defence after Toews and Kane scored two minutes apart to make it 3-1, the Bruins promptly took a too-many-men penalty.
There were alarming hits -- by Seabrook, who hit Bruins’ Daniel Paille right in the numbers and sent him headfirst into the glass (the referee never even blinked) and then a shoulder-to-shoulder hit by Michael Frolik that launched Patrice Bergeron violently into the boards and then to the dressing room.
He returned and the goal spree resumed -- Milan Lucic shoveling home a fat Crawford rebound of Chara’s shot, then the answer, 49 seconds later, by Chicago’s Marcus Kruger -- and two minutes after that, a shot over the net from Chara took a bizarre bounce off the glass behind the net, bounced onto the roof of the cage and back into the crease, where Bergeron calmly deposited it to make it, again, a one-goal game.
Crawford’s message to himself was: “Just stick with it, stick with it. No matter what happens there will be nights where it’s high scoring. We all stuck with it. No matter how many goals go in you have to be able to pull through.”
“We knew if we were going to lose this one, Boston have such a strong team it would be really tough to come back,” said Marian Hossa, who was nowhere near 100% after being scratched with an upper body injury in Game 3, but suited up and toughed it out.
“I felt so-so, but the decision was for me to play and I’m glad I could help a little bit. It’s an even series again. We’ll battle again and try to win another one.”
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