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Game 4 epic -- and players hardly know it

BOSTON -- The last people on earth to go to for perspective after a barn burner such as the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime win Wednesday night are the players.

They haven’t got a clue about just what happened to them.

Oh, they know Brent Seabrook ended this white-knuckle thrill ride at the 9:51 mark of the first overtime period, with yet another big-time cannon shot that eluded Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask and tied the Stanley Cup finals at two games apiece.

But if you ask them what it’s like to be at the center of a maelstrom of a game -- how it felt to be on the ice as these two deep, disciplined teams traded a series of what looked like knockout blows, only to see first one side and then the other get back up off the mat and throw another haymaker -- they have no idea.

How could they, really?

They were living a night that saw Chicago own eight different leads -- including 1-0, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 -- and still very nearly find itself down 3-1 in the series heading home for Game 5 on Saturday.

“I hope it was entertaining for you guys," Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson said after. "Personally, I didn't really like that at all, as a defenseman.

“Five goals against is too much for me, personally. I was on the ice for three of them. As long as we win, I'll be minus-3 every single game. I'm just happy we won the game."

Game 4 marked the third time in this series that overtime was required to determine an outcome.

If this series goes down as a classic -- and how could it not, given that we are now guaranteed six games at a minimum? -- it will be so because of a game such as this one.

After winning Game 1 4-3 in triple overtime, the Blackhawks had managed to score just once in losses in the following two games.

After the Blackhawks were shut out 2-0 in Game 3 and looked poor in the process, the prevailing thought was that the Bruins were about to strangle the life out of this series en route to their second Stanley Cup in three years.

And the Blackhawks somehow tossed aside that script by putting six past a Boston netminder who had allowed two or fewer goals 14 times this spring and whose name was already half-inscribed on the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

“I don't think anyone expected that before the game,” said Rask, who performed a minor miracle by allowing just six goals while still turning in a handful of brilliant stops.

“Yeah, you know, you think you have a good lead at 3-1," said Patrick Kane, who got a monkey off his back with his first goal of the series (which gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead) after being reunited with captain Jonathan Toews at the start of the game, and who drew an assist on Seabrook's overtime winner. "They make the score 3-2. We score a big goal the next shift; 4-2. Then they score on a power play. It was just kind of back and forth the rest of the game.

"I guess it was just our turn to score again."

What makes a night like this memorable is that all the moments you consider pivotal or defining -- a great play, a horrific turnover, a shot that beats a goalie high glove side -- become dust, specks on the canvas of the game.

Remember the first goal? Chicago's Brandon Saad, a nominee for rookie of the year, stole the puck from Tyler Seguin during a Boston power play, raced the length of the ice and saucered a great pass to Michal Handzus for a shorthanded goal.

Yeah, sort of remember that, even though it feels like it might have been part of another game altogether.

Also, Boston continued to dominate the power-play battle in this series, scoring twice on five chances, and that hardly qualifies as part of the narrative.

Patrice Bergeron continued his MVP-like spring with two more goals, but it was a sidebar, a notebook item.

Kane took an offensive-zone hooking penalty late in the second period, and the Bruins scored to narrow the gap to 4-3 and then tied it early in the third.

Ho hum.

Milan Lucic’s giveaway midway through the third period forced David Krejci into a hooking penalty, which the Blackhawks then turned into their first power-play goal of the series and a 5-4 lead.

Just another brightly colored thread in the fabric of something so much more.

Sometimes a game just decides what it’s going to be.

Regardless of what the coaches plan -- and trust us, neither Bruins coach Claude Julien nor counterpart Joel Quenneville planned on a 6-5 win -- and how the players hope to play, the game on those rare nights takes on a life of its own.

"There was a lot of our game tonight that was just average, and average isn't good enough at this stage of the season," said Julien, whose team had not allowed a six-spot in the playoffs since a 1996 series against the Florida Panthers.

No one outside of Julien, whose job it is to view the game differently, is likely to connect "average" and this game.

Twenty-two players had at least a point in Game 4.

"It felt like a roller coaster, that’s for sure," said the Bruins' Rich Peverly, who played his best game of the finals. "You score one. And I don’t know how many goals were scored repetitively, like one after another, within 30 seconds or a minute. Like I said, it’s a roller coaster, so you’ve just got to stay even-keeled."

At one point in the third period, Johnny Boychuk, another Boston goal scorer, nailed Patrick Sharp with a big hip check along the boards. Sharp came after Boychuk after the play, and words were exchanged before the two skated off.

Later in the third, it would be Sharp scoring what looked like it might be the winner, just past the midpoint of the period, with Chicago’s first power-play goal of the series.

The goal snapped an 0-for-23 drought with the man advantage.

After the game, Sharp was asked whether he was looking to drop the gloves with Boychuk, who, just for fun, happened to score the tying goal for the Bruins that erased Sharp’s potential winner and sent the game to overtime.

Sharp was a little incredulous.

"Did I want to fight? I want to win the Cup," he said. "That's what we're all playing for. Fights, goals, who cares? We're just out there battling, both sides are playing hard, playing clean, and it's a fun series to be a part of."

OK, so maybe there is a player or two who can help tell you what it’s like to play in a beauty like this one.