By Howard Ulman
The Associated Press
BOSTON — A dominant first period gave the Chicago Blackhawks plenty of momentum. Then it disappeared.
They’ve come to Boston to find it and get the upper hand over the Bruins in a very tight Stanley Cup final series.
“I guess the main thing is to always keep it simple,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said Sunday soon after arriving at the arena where he hopes to do that. “If you can do that, usually you can take away some of their momentum. I think right now they do have it, especially after the last overtime period where it seemed like they had a lot of chances compared to ours.”
Chicago outshot Boston 19-4 in the first period and led 1-0 in Game 2 on Saturday night. But the Bruins held a 24-15 lead the rest of the way and won 2-1 in overtime to even the series at one game apiece.
The team that scored first also lost the opener. Boston led 2-0 and 3-1 then allowed two goals in the last 12 minutes of regulation. Chicago went on to win 4-3 in three overtimes.
“Might be an unusual stat,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, “but there’s nothing wrong with scoring first.”
The Bruins physical play might have taken its toll. They outhit the Blackhawks 50-34 and dominated overtime.
“I’m used to getting hit back there quite a lot,” Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “I know how to take a hit or two. I think for the most (part) we might not be the most physical D corps in the league, but we’re trying to move the puck quick. Sometimes you have to take a good hit to deliver a pass.”
Any momentum Chicago gained by winning Game 1 carried over into Game 2 despite two days between games. The Blackhawks started aggressively, pressuring goalie Tuukka Rask and stifling the Bruins offense with tight checking.
“We played a perfect first period there,” Quenneville said. “In the second, we were going along fine, too, but I thought we slowed down a little bit in that period.”
The Blackhawks have struggled on the power play throughout the playoffs, and their inability to score after Boston’s Johnny Boychuk was penalized for holding at 8:15 of the second period may have turned the momentum in the Bruins’ favor.
Less than seven minutes later, Chris Kelly tied the game with his first goal of the postseason.
“On the power play, if you’re not going to score, you always want to at least build momentum somehow by getting chances,” Kane said.
You see with special teams in this playoffs, you can either get a lot of momentum off a big (penalty) kill or some momentum off a good power play or scoring a goal on the power play.
“Our penalty kill’s been great all year, to the point where we’ve won a lot of games because of it. It’s given us a lot of momentum. It would be nice to see the power play return that.”
The Blackhawks are scoreless in six power play opportunities against the Bruins and in 14 over their last five games. They’ve scored just once in the last 24 times they’ve had the extra skater.
“There’s not a lot of high-quality chances” when the teams are at even strength, Quenneville said. “We’ve got to look to maybe simplify it and play anything at the net.
“The pretty plays aren’t there. If we think the pretty plays are there with power plays, they evaporate quickly.”
Just like momentum.
In a series in which both teams take extra care to play disciplined hockey and avoid risks that could lead to costly mistakes, all it takes is one play — a big hit, an intercepted pass, a goal — for control to shift from one team to the other.
“We got away from what made us successful in the first period” Saturday night, Quenneville said. “You know your opponents are going to get their turn.”