BOSTON – There are must-wins, and there are must-wins, and the Chicago Blackhawks encountered the latter in the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night.
Beat the Bruins, and the Hawks recapture home ice advantage while making the series a best-of-3. Lose, and it was another 3-1 series deficit, looking even more cavernous than the one the Hawks stared down two rounds earlier.
“We’re presenting this like a Game 7,” Hawks winger Bryan Bickell said before the game. “If we get the win, we’ll be 2-2 going back home with momentum and home ice. Or it could be 3-1. I think it’s do or die. This is the biggest game in a lot of guys’ lives.”
A big blast from Brent Seabrook ended a wild game that spilled into yet another overtime, with the Hawks winning 6-5 in Game 4. Game 5 is Saturday night at the United Center.
A Patrick Sharp rebound score on the power play broke a tie midway through the third period, but a Johnny Boychuk blast less than a minute later made it a 5-5.
There were goals by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane separated by about 2 minutes in the second period. Then a Bruins answer. Then a Marcus Kruger score, then another Bruins power-play goal that cut the Hawks lead to 4-3 after two periods.
The Hawks jumped out to a fast start via a Michal Handzus short-handed goal, but a power-play strike from the Bruins’ Rich Peverley made it a 1-1 tie after the first period.
With Johnny Oduya in the box for an early interference call, the Hawks nevertheless struck first. Brandon Saad collected the puck in his own end and charged hard into the Bruins’ zone, flipping a pass to Handzus coming down the slot.
The veteran center one-timed a shot off the inside of the post and into the back of the net, beating Tuukka Rask for the first time in almost 130 minutes of game action for the 1-0 lead at the 6:33 mark.
A Saad mistake allowed the Bruins to score the equalizer later in the first. As a power play dwindled, the Hawks’ rookie couldn’t get his stick on a puck zipped across the ice and fell down reaching for it. Peverley jumped on the loose puck and beat Corey Crawford glove-side for the 1-1 tie at the 14:43 mark.
It would then be Toews circling the net and creating traffic, breaking a goal drought that had plagued him all postseason. Rozsival started the sequence with a stretch pass into the Bruins’ zone, then eventually collected the puck just inside the blue line when it circled back out.
The veteran defenseman let one rip from there, and it hit Toews’ blade and scooted under Rask’s pads for the 2-1 lead at the 6:33 mark.
It wasn’t much later that yet another sequence of a big shot from the point and traffic in front of the net paid dividends. Again, it was Rozsival letting loose a heavy shot from the perimeter, which ricocheted to Bryan Bickell in the slot. Bickell’s shot on Rask then bounced out to Kane, who flipped a backhander by the diving Bruins netminder for the 3-1 lead at the 8:41 mark.
The Bruins answered as the second period wound down. The Hawks couldn’t clear the zone, and Milan Lucic found himself alone in the slot, and he slammed a rebound past Crawford to cut the Hawks’ lead to 3-2 at the 14:43 mark.
An unlikely pair provided a stinging rebuke less than a minute later. Michael Frolik and Kruger attacked the Bruins zone off an outlet from Dave Bolland, and at the end of a 2-on-1, Kruger executed a nifty forehand-backhand, backhand-forehand finish past Rask, who threw his hands in the air at the Hawks reclaiming a two-goal edge at the 15:32 mark.
An odd bounce then tightened things up with Kane in the box for hooking and the Bruins on the power play. A shot was deflected by the Bruins’ Brad Marchand over the net, and it banked off the glass and dropped directly into the crease in front of Crawford. The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron was right there, and he flung in the loose change to cut the deficit to 4-3.
It didn’t take long for Bergeron to strike a gain. Just 125 seconds into the third period, he took a feed from Jaromir Jagr and rifled a shot past Crawford’s glove and in for the 4-4 tie.
After a parade of penalties midway through the third period, Sharp would cash in after being denied multiple times on breakouts earlier, knocking home a rebound off a Marian Hossa score for the 5-4 lead at the 11:19 mark.
The Hawks had their full arsenal at their disposal, with Marian Hossa deemed “fine” by coach Joel Quenneville on Wednesday morning and back in the lineup after missing Game 3 with a much-discussed mystery ailment.
The Hawks also reunited Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line, looking to spark an offense that hasn’t scored in 122-plus minutes.
“We have confidence together as a line, with Bicksie and Kaner, that we can make things happen,” Toews said.