BOSTON (Reuters) - Coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his deck and came up with a winning hand as the Chicago Blackhawks’ aces found their target in a wild 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday to level the Stanley Cup Final at two games each.
After a 2-0 defensive showcase in Game Three, the two teams turned on the offensive style in Game Four, combining for 11 goals, just one shy of the previous three contests combined.
Despite the offensive explosion and end-to-end action overtime was still needed for the third time in four games before Brent Seabrook unleashed a rocket from just inside the blueline that sailed past netminder Tuukka Rask and silenced the soldout crowd at the TD Garden.
The pulsating best-of-seven series now shifts to Chicago for Game Five on Saturday.
“I like shooting in that spot but to be honest, I was just trying to get it past the center man, their forward coming out and trying to block it,” Seabrook told reporters.
“(Patrick) Kane made a great play putting it on the ice, (Bryan) Bickell tried putting it there, it bounced around a little bit, our forwards did a good job of getting in front and boxing out. It was just a great play.”
In an effort to generate some scoring Quenneville shuffled his lines for the pivotal contest, the Chicago coach reuniting his top two forwards Jonathan Toews and Kane with Bickell and the unit produced instant magic.
Toews, who tied with Kane for the Chicago goal scoring lead during the regular season but had just one playoff goal, broke out of his post-season slump in the second period to put Chicago ahead 2-1.
Kane, who had not scored in the Final, followed Toews’ lead when he jumped on a big rebound and lifted a backhand over a diving Rask.
The trio were also on the ice for the game winner, Kane and Bickell picking up assists on Seabrook’s goal while Toews was parked on the goalmouth ready to scoop up any rebounds.
”I like that line,“ Quenneville told reporters. ”Big picture getting reunited, they seem to have some chemistry. Scoring certainly helps.
”Everybody in that line brings something different to the party. Bicks off the rush can shoot. Kaner has possession. Johnny gets through.
“It’s a nice combination.”
And a winning one that left many wondering why Quenneville had waited so long to reunite the unit, especially after enjoying so much success against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference final.
“You always get second guessed,” said Quenneville. “There’s reasons why. ”At the same time, I think we didn’t mind the way we played the first game, first part of the second game.
“Game Three we were disappointed with our offense so we went to the well.”
The Blackhawks needed every bit of offense they could muster against the relentless Bruins, who kept clawing back.
Chicago’s Michal Handzus opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal, Boston answered with a Rich Peverley powerplay tally in the first period.
The second was a thrilling shootout as Toews, Kane and Marcus Kruger counted for Chicago, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron replying for the Bruins.
Bergeron collected his second of the night two minutes into the third to tie the game a 4-4 but the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp converted a powerplay to put them back in front.
Johnny Boychuk came to the Bruins rescue with a laser from the slot to force overtime but Boston would end the game having never held the lead.
”I thought our guys battled hard enough to get us back in the game and create an overtime,“ said Boston coach Claude Julien. ”I don’t think we played our best game tonight.
“It was certainly a tough outing for us tonight. They came out hard, played extremely well.”
Editing by Patrick Johnston/Peter Rutherford