BOSTON – They traded punches over the course of a thrilling 60 minutes, but by the time it was all over in yet another overtime the Hawks had scored the final knockout.
"I guess it was just our turn to score again," Patrick Kane chirped after the dramatic 6-5 victory.
Brent Seabrook delivered the finishing dagger midway through the fourth period of Game 4 at the Garden in Boston, knotting the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece as the series shifts back to the Windy City for Game 5 on Saturday night.
Back-to-back losses had the Blackhawks on the ropes entering the Wednesday evening affair, but they responded forcefully with a speedy and energetic effort, blasting six goals by Tuukka Rask, outlasting a Bruins squad that had squeezed them for just a single marker in the previous two games.
"Tonight was one of those games that we treated as a Game 7," said Jonathan Toews, the Chicago captain reuniting with Kane to snap a 10-game goal drought. "We weren't going to be denied."
He and the Hawks were able to rewrite the course of the series with another overtime victory, now a best-of-three scenario on the road back to the Madhouse. Ground to a halt offensively in dropping Games 2 and 3, the Hawks lit a fuse early in Game 4 and came out flying. It was a dramatic return to the brand of hockey they favour, their quickness, both on skates and with the puck, causing fits all night for Boston, who nonetheless managed to respond time and time again, helped by an off-night from Corey Crawford.
Broken apart after topping the Kings in the Western Final, Toews and Kane joined forces again with the offence stalling, combining for a pair of goals alongside Bryan Bickell, who chipped in with a pair of helpers in the win. "Whenever we get the chance to get back together we complement each other because we play very different games," said Toews, who hadn't scored since May 25.
Seabrook had actually peppered the Chicago leader with questions in the lead-up to Game 5, as to his approach and plans for the critical tilt. "I have to give him the right answer, 'thinking about scoring a goal'." Toews would recall of their conversations. "He's been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better and have those positive thoughts."
Banished to the outside in the previous two games, Chicago made a point of attacking the crease of Rask with steady bursts of traffic, rewarded with a series of rebound goals beyond the reach of the Boston netminder, including the first from Toews since Game 5 of the Detroit series, the first from Kane this series and the 10th from Patrick Sharp in the playoffs to lead all players.
"We talked about using our speed, attacking, trying to play on the inside and get to the net and it resulted in a bunch of goals," said Sharp, who scored Chicago's first power-play goal of the series in the third frame.
"Just those little battles," added Toews, "whether it's with [Zdeno] Chara or any of their other defencemen, all our forwards were really keen on winning tonight. We made a point of it in our locker room. We scored a couple goals off of that.
"We were getting inside and we found the rebounds. If they're ugly goals we don't care we'll find a way. It's something we need to keep doing."
An exhilarating middle frame full of action and furious, free-wheeling attempts saw the two teams exchange five goals, the Bruins twice knotting the score later in the third on snipes from Patrice Bergeron (his second of the evening) and Johnny Boychuk.
"It's definitely not our style of game," said Bergeron, who has nine goals in the postseason. "We've got to tighten up in our zone, but also in the neutral zone and prevent their speed. That's what they want."
Crawford was stung for five goals on 33 shots, his glove hand targeted all evening. Asked if his confidence dipped at any point in the action, the 28-year-old responded in the negative. "No," he said, "it was just that type of game. I think the biggest part of it was us being able to grab the lead again. Every time they came back we were able to grab the lead again."
"I wouldn't say we got comfortable," Toews added of Boston's constant comebacks, "but we definitely need to focus on being smarter and better defensively in that situation. We let them bounce back too quickly. When we get that momentum we've got to hold onto it a little bit longer."
Momentum proved a fleeting mirage in this game and really so far in this series. Just when it appeared the tides had turned in the Bruins' favour after a pair of tight victories – they held Chicago without a goal for 120-plus minutes – did the Hawks respond emphatically with a high-wire performance, regaining home-ice advantage in the process.
"It's about Game 5 now," Bergeron declared. "There's nothing you can do about the first four. We're even. It's about the best of three pretty much now. We've got to look at it that way."
"Home ice is back on our side," added Sharp from the rival side, "but it doesn't mean anything until we take care of business."