CHICAGO – The Bruins knew they had played a "terrible" period. Blasted in the opening 20 minutes of Game 2 at the United Center, but only down a goal despite a Blackhawks shot barrage, Boston assembled in the visitors' dressing room between periods to hash out their concerns.
"We told ourselves that we have to wake up," Dennis Seidenberg recalled of the intermission exchange, which included a similar refrain from head coach Claude Julien. "It's the Stanley Cup Finals; you don't get here too many times in your life so it's now or never."
Daniel Paille would blister a shot behind the glove of Corey Crawford in overtime on Saturday evening, capping a steady Bruins rally and evening up the Stanley Cup Final at one with Game 3 ahead in Boston on Monday night.
The picture of experience and resiliency in recent years, the Bruins would ultimately survive a miserable first frame, an early storm that saw Chicago swarm Tuukka Rask with 19 shots, only four going the other way in a truly one-sided proceeding. In spite of the ferocious onslaught, however, Boston was down just the one goal, Patrick Sharp the lone shooter to beat Rask, the emerging Conn Smythe candidate now boasting a .944 save percentage in the postseason.
"Well, we definitely were in survival mode there for a bit," said Rask afterward, the Blackhawks held to just 15 shots the rest of the night. "It looked like they had more guys out there than we did ... We definitely played pretty bad."
"It was totally lopsided," Julien agreed. "It was a hard period to coach and to watch."
Luck, or the "hockey breaks" as Julien termed them earlier in the week, would swing for Boston though on this night. With fewer than eight minutes to go in the first, a wraparound attempt from Jonathan Toews would seemingly cross the goal-line following a late push from Marian Hossa. But upon video review, it was determined that the officials had blown the play dead, the goal disallowed.
The Bruins knew they had dodged a bullet, down just the single marker. "We were really lucky," Seidenberg conceded of his team's fortunate state after a period. "We didn't play well in front of Tuukka, but Tuukka saved us coming out of the first only being down one."
Staring at a potential 2-0 series hole, after dropping the opener in a marathon triple overtime classic, Seidenberg and his teammates knew they could ill afford to continue their uninspired early play. And upon realizing the stakes, they woke up and ground their way back into the hockey game.
Chris Kelly would knot the score at one with about five minutes remaining in the middle period, his first goal of the playoffs and first since April 17, the pace of play slowing, the level of physical play rising, the amount of chances allowed diminishing. "I think after that first period, we just decided to get our legs moving," Julien said. "Slowly things started going our way."
"The sense of desperation came in," Milan Lucic added, Nathan Horton rejoining his line after departing with injury in the first overtime of Game 1. "You never want to get yourself down 2-0 and that was the thought and that's what we were talking about in the dressing room between periods. We wanted to go out there and give ourselves a chance going into the third period."
The score would remain square at one upon the conclusion of regulation, overtime required for the second straight game to begin the series. Teamed together early in the second frame and already having conspired for the game-tying goal, Kelly, Paille and Tyler Seguin would reconnect on the winner, Seguin capitalizing on a giveaway from Brandon Bollig at the blueline, dishing to Paille for the series-evening marker.
"Like I told our guys," said Julien, "we got to show up on time for these kind of games. It could have cost us tonight."
"It was a dirty road win," Seidenberg concluded.