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BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins did not deserve to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. They may not have deserved what they ultimately got, but they did not deserve to win.
It would be easy to forget after the 112-minute affair that featured 117 shots on net, 120 hits, 63 blocked shots and too many near misses to count, but that game should have never gone to overtime at all. Of course, it did, and even though the Bruins were the team generating a higher number of quality scoring chances in the 52 minutes of extra time played, it was their own fault for putting themselves in that situation in the first place.
Twice the Bruins held a two-goal lead during regulation, but neither cushion lasted very long. The first came just 51 seconds into the second period, when Milan Lucic scored his second goal of the night. The Bruins looked like they may have been on their way to the type of lopsided victory they had in Pittsburgh in the conference finals, but the Blackhawks had other ideas. Just 2:17 after the B’s opened up that 2-0 lead, Marian Hossa outworked Nathan Horton behind the net and fed a pass to Brandon Saad, who fired a laser past Tuukka Rask to give the Blackhawks life.
The Bruins hung in, though, and eventually stretched the lead to 3-1 in the third period, when Patrice Bergeron clanked a one-time slap shot off the right post and in on Boston’s first power play of the night. With a two-goal lead and just 14 minutes to kill before taking a 1-0 series lead on the road, the Bruins forgot one thing.
They had to finish.
Perhaps playing Pittsburgh in those first two games of the conference finals was bad practice, because it was clear the Blackhawks aren’t the type of team that’s going to roll over and quit when they fall behind.
That two-goal lead in the third period lasted a grand total of 1:51, thanks to a bad Torey Krug turnover that may cost the kid his spot for the rest of the series.
Despite the goal by Dave Bolland, the Bruins still held a lead with 12 minutes left. If they kept playing their game, getting the puck deep into the Chicago zone and sending the puck toward net in hopes of scoring the clincher, the Bruins could have won in regulation. And really, they should have won in regulation.
Instead, the Blackhawks raised their intensity and effort to a level the Bruins could not match. The Blackhawks kept the pressure on the Bruins, and though it took a Johnny Oduya shot bouncing off Andrew Ference’s skate to tie the game, it wasn’t a goal born purely out of luck. When you’re outplaying your opponent, you tend to create your own luck. You force the issue, you play smart, you create results. The Blackhawks did that, and the Bruins did not. The Blackhawks deserve credit for being the better team and clawing back, just as the Bruins deserve blame for getting outplayed with so much on the line.
So while a review of Horton hitting the post in overtime, or Kaspars Daugavins passing up a wide open net, or Shawn Thornton being unable to get a shot off on a 2-on-1, or Krug unleashing his famed slap shot, it may seem like the Bruins were robbed of a win. But they weren’t.
The Bruins were the better team for the bulk of the three overtime periods, but the game should have never extended beyond regulation. That alone is tough to swallow, but having to expend 52 extra minutes of energy (and losing Horton in that extra time) just to end up with a 1-0 series deficit is a big blow to the Bruins.
The series is far from over, and the Bruins have rallied against much greater adversity, so the missed opportunity doesn’t need to be made out for more than it is. Still, at this point in the postseason, there’s not much room for error. After just one game, albeit a very long one, the Bruins have already used up all of their mulligans.