CHICAGO -- For much of the early part of Game 2 of these achingly close Stanley Cup finals, it appeared as though the Boston Bruins had spoken the right words but were going to be unable to summon the will to move on from an emotional triple-overtime loss in Game 1.
Oh, they had talked the talk, all right. They had talked about their experience and their belief in themselves.
And then they came out and played a first period that suggested the complete opposite, that they were in fact crippled by their 4-3 loss in Game 1.
But slowly, inch by inch, minute by minute, the Bruins made good on those words and became the kind of team they insisted they were.
They started hitting everything that moved in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, and by the time overtime rolled around, they had tilted the entire ice surface to their side, capping off a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory with Daniel Paille's goal with 6:12 left in the first overtime.
"It's great and exciting for the fans who watch the hockey games," offered Boston winger Jaromir Jagr, who had a strong game for the Bruins and narrowly missed ending the game himself, ringing one off the crossbar earlier in overtime. "If you have a bad heart, you might not watch the game because you might get a heart attack. For young people, it's pretty exciting to watch. Old people don't watch it because you might die just watching."
Now, the pressure shifts to a Chicago team that must come to grips with its failure to bury the Bruins in a first period in which they dominated Boston, outshooting them 19-4.
"It's like the second period; I thought we lost the pace of the game on that end of the rink. We had the perfect start to the game, then we stopped doing what made us successful," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We stood around. They countered."
"We’ve got to swallow this one and move on," said Patrick Sharp, the Blackhawks’ lone goal scorer. "They’re a good team. They’re tough to play against. They protect their net well, and for all the talk about how big tough and physical they are, they move well, too."
As this series moves along, one wonders if the Blackhawks will think back to the first period of Game 2 as the moment when this series got away from them.
Were it not for Tuukka Rask’s continued brilliance in the Boston goal, Game 2 would have been over early and perhaps the series as well.
But that’s not how it played out.
"Well, we definitely were in survival mode there for a bit. It looked like they had more guys out there than we did," said Rask, who has now allowed two or fewer goals 13 times in this playoff year.
In the Bruins' room after that period, there was a lot of soul-searching.
"We told ourselves we have to wake up. It’s the Stanley Cup finals,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "You don’t get here too many times in your life. It’s now or never and we started playing better slowly, and finally found our gear towards the end of the second."
Although the Bruins lost the first two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals on the road in Vancouver and came back to win four of the next five and the Cup, the odds of repeating that feat this year against a team as deep and talented as Chicago would have been remote.
"It was a dirty road win, I would say," Seidenberg said. "I mean, we didn’t deserve to only be down one after the first but we ground it out somehow and again Tuukka saved us. But it’s huge going back home and I don’t know if it’s momentum but we can certainly build off that."
Although this game lacked the spark and sizzle of Game 1, in which the Bruins built a 3-1 lead and then traded chances for 112:08 before Andrew Shaw gave the Blackhawks the victory, it was dynamic in its own way.
In the two off days between games, Bruins head coach Claude Julien talked about the team’s poise and how not much rattles his troops. That was borne out Saturday, as the Bruins survived the first period and then allowed just 15 shots the rest of the way.
On a night when neither team’s big guns were particularly visible -- Sharp scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks during that dominating first -- the Bruins got two goals from a revamped third line and it happened to be enough to redefine the narrative of this series.
"I think we stopped thinking and started playing and realized we had to help the team. That helps your game when you stop thinking and using your natural ability," Paille explained.
Paille, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin were thrown together midway through the game and were the best unit on the ice for either team, tying the game on a hard-working shift in the second period and then winning it on a nice pass from Seguin to Paille in the slot.
"It was awesome. I know being on the bench for that one, playing 10 periods in two games, it was nice to see that one go in and not have to go to double overtime and to get us back in the series," Milan Lucic said. "It was a big goal. Two big goals by that line. Another great game by Tuukka. We definitely had to earn this one."
While that unit provided the scoring heroics, the rest of the Bruins' lineup provided moments that facilitated the comeback.
The big line of Nathan Horton, Lucic and David Krejci struggled mightily in the first period and it appeared as though the injury that saw Horton miss most of the overtime sessions in Game 1 was prohibiting him from playing with the same abandon we had seen earlier in the playoff year.
But as the game progressed, Lucic was a force, plastering Blackhawk players to the boards all over the ice.
"When things aren’t going your way, you try to get yourself into it any way you can," Lucic said. "For myself, that’s what I was trying to do was be physical and get in on the forecheck, and it seemed like things started to happen for us after that. So we talked about it before the series that our forecheck is going to be key for us and we have to keep it up for us."
The line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jagr likewise looked out of sync in the first but was among the most dangerous units late in the game and in overtime, when the Bruins dominated. Along with his crossbar, Jagr led all Bruins with five shots.
"Like I told our guys, we got to show up on time for these kind of games. It could have cost us tonight," Julien said. "Again, we got rewarded because I thought from the second period on, we were a good team, a better team, and by the end I thought we had more chances."