That wasn't an easy task because Crawford had to do it five separate times on Wednesday, but he kept focusing on the next task before him and was eventually rewarded as the Blackhawks pulled out a 6-5 overtime win at TD Garden and evened the series at 2-2.
BOSTON -- Somewhere in Manhattan Beach, Calif., on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Kings had to be thinking that the team they lost to in the Western Conference finals finally resurfaced in the Stanley Cup finals.
The speedy, attacking version of the Chicago Blackhawks was back in uniform on this night, surviving a wild 6-5 overtime affair that was only in doubt because netminder Corey Crawford had a rare night off in these playoffs.
Just like 2-0 was a flattering score to a Hawks team dominated in Game 3 by Boston, nowhere but the scoreboard were the Bruins close on Wednesday night.
Chicago was first to most pucks, ahead by a step on most shifts and buzzing around Tuukka Rask like they hadn’t since the opening period of Game 2.
The Blackhawks aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup trying to beat the Bruins playing Bruins hockey. No, the Hawks can only pull it off playing their speed-stretch pass-attack game.
"I think that’s how our team is built," agreed Hawks star Patrick Sharp. "We’ve got four lines that can score, we’ve got four lines that can skate, we’ve got a mobile defense, we’re not saying we want to open the flood gates and just trade chances, but I think when we play that attack game and that confident style, we can be a successful team."
A return to their style of game needed a return to the line that spearheads that game: Captain Jonathan Toews reunited with Patrick Kane on a line with Bryan Bickell.
You understand what head coach Joel Quenneville was thinking before the series, wanting to split up Kane and Toews so that at least one of them would get away from a Zdeno Chara matchup.
But after generating so little offensively in Game 3, Quenneville felt compelled to go back to his fail-safe: No. 19 and No. 88 together. Why not, after the way in which the pair combined to bury the Kings in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference finals.
And after Wednesday night’s performance by that line, not sure we’ll see them split up again in this series.
"That line was dangerous, be it off the rush, in the zone," said Quenneville. "The excitement of that line, Kaner in possession, Bick around with the big body, they scored some different kind of goals. But Johnny had a nice night."
Toews scored his second goal of the playoffs, his celebration after the goal suggesting he enjoyed getting the monkey off his back. Kane, who was nearly invisible in Game 3, found ways to get through the Bruins' physical coverage and was much more noticeable, collecting a rebound goal by going hard to the net.
And Chara? He was minus-3 and on the ice for five goals in total.
"Credit to Chara, he's one of their key players, he's a great player," said Toews. "We know his No. 1 advantage is his size, reach and strength. I think at the same time you can't give him too much respect and want to compensate the way you play as a line, considering the fact he's out there against you. I mean, there's certain ways you can expose him. I think the dump-ins that we made tonight were going to his side. We made sure we were outnumbering him everywhere we went, taking away his stick first thing.
"We just try not to be intimidated by his size. You have to get to the net, find a way inside, not be, like I said, intimidated by that.
"We can outwork him and we did that tonight, and we want to continue that."
Whoa, get all that? Not sure Toews could have been any more clear. They’re taking on Chara head-on and they’re OK with it.
Big Z was in Toews’ face all night long after every whistle, trying to intimidate the Hawks captain. Unlike many players in this league who have shrunk a bit after that kind of menace, Toews stood even taller as the night went on.
It’s game on between two great captains.
Of course, the return of Marian Hossa cannot be lost in all this. He’s just such an effective player, especially on the road with his size and strength and his ability to lower his shoulder and take pucks straight to the net.
On the second line with Sharp and Michal Handzus, Hossa’s unit combined for two goals and an assist and was equally forceful on this night. Hossa’s return provides so much balance to the way the Hawks set up their lines.
"Huge game from everybody," said Hossa. "That’s how we’re going to beat this team. Everybody contributed and it was a huge win. ...
"It’s huge. We knew if we were going to lose this one, Boston they have such a strong team, it would be really tough to come back."
Not only was Chicago’s response to Game 3 a statement about the moxie of this team, but the manner in which they kept their composure in a game in which they gave up a pair of two-goal leads plus a third-period lead, and a clunker from their goalie, well, that’s character.
There’s plenty of that to go around in both these dressing rooms. But it was Chicago under the gun to prove it on this night with their season essentially on the line.
"That was an amazing effort by our guys," said Crawford.
"We’ve never doubted the heart and character in our room," said Sharp, who had yet another clutch playoff night. "We believe in each other, and even though we were giving up goals we probably shouldn’t give up, with the game on the line we kept finding a way to get the next one."
And fitting, really, that good ol’ Brent Seabrook, in many ways the emotional barometer of this team, got the OT winner with a blast at 9:51 of the extra period.
It was Seabrook, according to Toews, who kept asking the Hawks captain over the last few days what he was thinking. He demanded that Toews respond, "Score a goal."
Toews did, but so did Seabrook.
"Everybody worked so hard tonight, everybody's worked so hard through the playoffs, we're all contributing," said Seabrook. "It doesn't matter if I score or anybody else scores, it's nice to get the win and move on to the next day.
"I think it's definitely exciting to score in an overtime game, an overtime goal. But at the end of the day it's just a win and we still need
two more, so ..."
So we’re off to Chicago, with the Hawks back in this thing in a big way.
Seven games? I’ve said it all along, you better believe it.
ESPN Chicago takes a look at the Blackhawks' road to the Stanley Cup through pictures.
Click through our photo gallery, which tells the story of how the Hawks have arrived at Game 4 of the finals, two wins from their second Stanley Cup in three years.
Game 4 Report Card: Chicago Blackhawks 6, Boston Bruins 5 (OT)
The chances and the scoring were spread out, led by the Hawks' top line which accounted for two goals in the second period. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane finished chances like they're supposed to while Patrick Sharp, playing on the second line, kept peppering Tuukka Rask to the tune of eight shots on net and a power-play goal. And don't forget Brandon Saad's play to set up Michal Handzus with the game's first tally back in the first period. Saad's turnover led to Boston's first score as well, but it was one of the few big mistakes the forward made -- though the Hawks took a couple of bad penalties, including both Toews and Kane. The defense helped the offense, getting shots through from the point and leading the rush. Winning 49 percent of the faceoffs helped as the Hawks reversed most trends on offense from Game 3.
The blueliners get points for contributing on offense, but power-play goals given up and lost battles in their own zone downgrade them. Johnny Oduya, in particular, had his struggles, including one glaring one in which he couldn't win the puck from Jaromir Jagr during an extended battle along the boards. Patrice Bergeron scored seconds later. Several shots on Corey Crawford came with more time and space than anyone would have liked. It was a tough night on defense but Michal Rozsival and Brent Seabrook helped save the day, contributing on offense.
It's rare to give a winning goaltender a near-failing grade, but Corey Crawford contributed to the Hawks giving up three leads. Though the Bruins had some good looks, Crawford simply could not track the puck with his glove. He kept missing. The only real excuse he had was on one of Bergeron's goals as the puck came off the glass behind Crawford and bounced back into the crease, where it was tough for the goalie to find. Otherwise, Crawford's glove was hit or miss all night.
It was a failing grade on Monday but the Hawks saved themselves with a short-handed tally and a big power-play goal, their first of the finals, in the third period. But two power-play goals by the Bruins offset any success the Hawks had on special teams. All of a sudden the Hawks aren't making the plays killing penalties they did all season and the Bruins are capitalizing. Besides the one power-play tally, the rest of the night with the man advantage was business as usual: bad.
BOSTON -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime win over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals at TD Garden on Wednesday.
How it happened: Goals were difficult to come by for both teams in Games 2 and 3, but that all changed on Wednesday. The Blackhawks and Bruins couldn't stop scoring in Game 4. Brent Seabrook broke a 5-5 tie with the winner in overtime. It all started when the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead when Brandon Saad stole the puck from Bruins forward Tyler Seguin and set up Michal Handzus for a short-handed goal at 6:48 of the first period. A Saad turnover would be partly responsible for the Bruins answering with a power-play goal by Rich Peverley at 14:43 of the first period. The Blackhawks went ahead 3-1 in the second period with consecutive goals by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Milan Lucic cut the Blackhawks' lead to one at 14:43, but the Blackhawks scored less than a minute later with a goal by Marcus Kruger. With the Blackhawks up 4-2, Patrice Bergeron emerged for the Bruins. He scored on a power-play goal at 17:22 of the second period and tied the game at 4-4 at 2:05 of the third period. Patrick Sharp put the Blackhawks back ahead shortly with a power-play goal at 11:19 of the third period. Less than a minute later, Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk tied the game. Neither Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford nor Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had previously allowed more than four goals in a playoff game this season.
Player of the game: Seabrook came through again. It was his second winner of the playoffs this season.
What it means: The Blackhawks evened the series at 2-2 and regained home-ice advantage. The Blackhawks had scored just two goals in the past two games. One reason the Blackhawks broke out of their slump was Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reunited Toews and Kane. They had two goals and one assist on Wednesday. It was just Toews' second goal of the playoffs. The Blackhawks' power play also converted for the first time in the series. They're 1-for-15 in the series. The goal snapped the Bruins' streak of 30 consecutive penalty kills. The Blackhawks improved to 4-5 on the road in the playoffs this season, and the Bruins fell to 7-3 at TD Garden.
What's next: The series moves to Chicago for Game 5 on Saturday. The Blackhawks are 10-2 at the United Center in the playoffs this season. The Bruins are 6-3 on the road.
The Blackhawks wouldn't mind those same results again on Wednesday night.
Kane and Toews again skated together along with Bryan Bickell on a line during the team's morning skate prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't guarantee Kane and Toews would remain together come game time, but the move wouldn't be surprising. Quenneville has often resorted to combining Kane and Toews when the team's offense has struggled. The Hawks have scored one goal the past two games.
IT'S TUUKKA TIME!: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has not allowed a goal at home in his last 186:28. According to Elias, if Rask does not allow a goal for the first 8:36 of tonight's game, he would have the second-longest home shutout streak within one season in NHL playoff history. If he goes 53:33 he would break the record of 240:00 set by Detroit's Terry Sawchuk in 1952.
The Chicago Blackhawks are at a crossroads heading into Wednesday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins. Down 2-1 in the series, all is not lost for the Hawks, but in some ways it seems like it is.
Unable to score a goal in Game 3, unable to win a faceoff and unable to simply look professional on the power play, the Hawks looked completely out of sync. The Bruins undoubtedly had something to do with that, as did the last-minute loss of star forward Marian Hossa. The Bruins have slowly taken control of the series over the past two games. They've gotten better while the Hawks have gotten worse.
"We're in a tough spot," coach Joel Quenneville said in Boston on Tuesday. "In the Detroit series, we found a way to get ourselves back into it. That's what we're looking for."
Roughly 13 periods into the Stanley Cup finals between Kane's Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins, and the Hawks have managed just five goals. They trail in the series 2-1 after being blanked 2-0 on Monday night. Game 4 is Wednesday.
Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa (who was injured and did not play in Game 3), Bryan Bickell and Kane are all without a goal.
It is easy to say, then, that for the Hawks to reassert themselves in this series, those players must produce.
What makes the issue more complex and perhaps in the end more compelling is that those players -- specifically Kane -- must find a way to solve the puzzle that is the Bruins' defense.
Read the entire story.
BOSTON -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp has been around long enough to know that what he and his teammates were feeling after their Game 3 loss in the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins on Monday wasn’t going to last come Tuesday.
“I think we’ve been in the playoffs a number of years together,” Sharp said at TD Garden on Tuesday. “This is my fifth year in Chicago. It feels like the end of the world after the loss, but you wake up the next day and realize it’s a long series and there’s another game to be played. The start of Game 4 we’re not going to be thinking about what happened in Game 3. It’s all about that next game.”
The Blackhawks may be moving on from Game 3 and have repeatedly said they’re not panicking being down 2-1 in the series, but they also admitted Tuesday they were facing a vital Game 4.
“I think we're in a tough spot,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “In the Detroit [Red Wings’ Western Conference semifinals] series, we found a way to get ourselves to get back into it. That's what we're looking for. [Wednesday] is a very important game, like we have to win [Wednesday] night. Come up with a good result, we're right where we want to be.”
BOSTON -- Joel Quenneville held off judgment of Dave Bolland's performance in Game 3 on the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, but a day later the Chicago Blackhawks coach said he expects more from Bolland.
Bolland was whistled for a game-high three penalties, was robbed of the puck in the Blackhawks' zone to set up the Bruins' first goal, won 1-of-8 faceoffs, had one just hit and had a minus-2 rating in the Blackhawks' 2-0 loss on Monday.
"Yeah, one of those nights, rough night," Quenneville said at TD Garden on Tuesday. "Certainly can't take three (penalties). I think you've got to be smarter about it when you do take one, that maybe you put yourself in that spot again. Let's make sure we learn from that."
Bolland had trouble staying out of the penalty box early in the playoffs when he had three multi-penalty games against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals, but he had since limited those trips. He was called for two penalties in the last nine games leading up to Game 3 on Monday.
Bolland, who didn't speak to reporters after the game, wasn't sure why he committed three penalties in Game 3 when he spoke with the media on Tuesday.
"Maybe could have been too aggressive," Bolland said. "It's a fast game. You're always moving your feet. You're always trying to get pucks off guys. It's the way things go."
Bolland's Game 3 struggles came after he played his best game of the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. He had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks' 4-3 triple-overtime win over the Bruins in Game 1. It was Bolland's first goal and first multi-point game of the playoffs.
Bolland believes the key to improving his play in Game 4 on Wednesday is being better with his puck possession.
"I think I have to bring a lot more in Game 4, for sure," Bolland said. "I think for myself bringing that puck to the net. What I do with that puck down low is the main thing. It's just not throwing the puck away and just throwing it in front of the net. I think we have that confidence down low, and we have to take the puck to the net."