You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?
You didn’t think the Bruins could hold Chicago down the way they did Pittsburgh, did you?
You didn’t think with Marian Hossa back in the lineup for the Presidents' Trophy winners, the Bruins would walk over the opposition in Game 4, did you?
And you had to have known that Corey Crawford was capable of matching Tuukka Rask at some point in this series, right?
What you may not have seen coming was one of the most epic -- and offensive -- games in recent Stanley Cup finals history.
That’s what unfolded on the much-improved ice of Game 4 Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Yes, the Bruins lost, 6-5, when Brent Seabrook fired a slap shot past Tuukka Rask just about 10 minutes into overtime. Yes, the series is tied, 2-2. But the Bruins were part of history Wednesday night, the kind of history that will put them in Stanley Cup lore for years to come.
Here’s how, even in defeat, they showed what kind of resiliency and fight they have.
After a fairly routine first period that featured 21 shots and a goal apiece, what came next will go down as the most dramatically entertaining playoff hockey of these, or any, playoffs.
The second period featured five goals that could’ve been 10 (no joke) if it weren’t for some outstanding goaltending and some incredibly bad luck.
As was the case in Game 7 against Toronto, Rask gave up four goals over two periods. But if it weren’t for several key saves, the Hawks would have put the game out of reach.
With the Hawks up 3-1, Rask robbed Marian Hossa from the left circle. With the Hawks up 4-2, Rask stopped Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane between the circles on separate chances.
The end of the period was some of the most frenetic action in recent Cup finals history.
With the Hawks leading 4-3, and under 30 seconds left in the period, Chris Kelly had the game-tying goal on his stick, only to have the puck clang off the left post. Even the horn operator was fooled, assuming Kelly had tied the game. The horn went off for a brief moment as play continued.
Apparently the horn operator couldn’t hear the clang through the intense crowd noise or was just like everyone else, caught up in the frenzy at the end of the period.
But just 20 seconds later, as the Bruins were swarming, sensing the game-tying goal that would blow the lid off the building, Jaromir Jagr was left all alone between the circles and back-handed a shot on Crawford.
Naturally, Crawford denied Jagr, the most snake-bitten star in these Cup playoffs, with two seconds left, and the two teams skated off the ice, the Hawks lucky to be protecting a tenuous one-goal advantage.
“Well, for me, you don't want to take a penalty in the offensive zone,” Kane said, referring to his hooking penalty that set up Bergeron’s power-play goal with three minutes left in the period. “I was a little disappointed in myself for that. When you see them moving the puck in our end, I think one of our guys, Duncan [Keith] lost a stick, Johnny [Oduya] gave him his stick, whenever you're down like that, it's almost like you're playing a penalty kill. It was huge to get out of that with a lead.”
Both team desperately needed the breather for what promised to be one of the more intense third periods in recent Bruins memory.
Remember, there was no tension in Game 7 against Toronto, only a sense that the end was near before Nathan Horton scored to make it 4-2.
But this game was all about tension.
The Blackhawks knew a win would gain them home-ice advantage again while the Bruins knew a win meant a chance to clinch the Cup on Saturday night in Chicago.
The Bruins never faced this type of challenge on their home ice against Vancouver two years ago. They blew out the Canucks 12-1 in Games 3 and 4 and never trailed.
They trailed by two goals twice in the second period only to storm back. How good have the Bruins been since the opening round?
The second period against Chicago Wednesday night was the first time they had trailed by two goals since that fateful Game 7 against Toronto.
It was almost as if you knew what was coming in the third period. The Bruins sensed they had momentum again, just like overtime of Game 7 against the Leafs. And just like that night, it was Patrice Bergeron who did it again.
Jagr, who couldn’t buy a goal, did all the little and not-so little things behind the net that has earned him recognition as one of the best players ever on the puck in NHL history. He fought off a pair of Blackhawks behind the end line and fed Bergeron at the top of the right circle. Bergeron fired and scored 2:05 into the third to tie the game.
Apparently Bergeron, with two goals this series and nine for the playoffs, is getting all of the good fortune that is missing Jagr. But that doesn’t matter to these Bruins -- not at all.
The TD Garden certainly appreciated everything that was going on, and so did everyone watching on TV in the United States, Canada and all around the world. It was breakneck hockey on the sport’s ultimate stage.
But for Bergeron and everyone on the ice, when you're in the eye of the hurricane, it’s tough to appreciate the power and whirlwind all around you.
“It’s different," Bergeron said. "You’re in the game and you’re focused and thinking about the next shift, staying in the moment. Not really, to be honest with you. It’s about finding a way, and tonight we didn’t. It’s about getting back at it on Game 5.”
What the third period lacked in scoring, it made up for in intensity, goats and heroes.
When Jonathan Toews took a hooking penalty, the Bruins had the chance to snap the 4-4 tie with another power-play goal, having scored on two of their first four chances.
But instead of capitalizing, the Bruins gave it back and then some. Jagr was called for high sticking just 22 seconds later. Moments later, the biggest mistake of the third period came when Milan Lucic failed to clear the puck in his own end, leading to a turnover that forced David Krejci to take a hooking penalty in front of Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins had killed 30 straight penalties when Jagr came out of the box and turned a 5-on-3 into a 5-on-4, but he didn’t make it to the B's end in time as Sharp scored with 8:41 left, snapping Boston’s penalty-kill streak and giving the Hawks a 5-4 lead.
But these are the Bruins, the never-say-die Bruins. It took them only 55 seconds to respond on a Johnny Boychuk rocket from the slot. The Garden was again in pandemonium. Game tied, 5-5, and the Bruins needed just one more goal for a 3-1 series lead.
But the “Johnny Rocket” would be the last goal the Bruins scored as the epic game went into overtime. This time, the game did not have the feel of a Bruins walkover in overtime. The game was too wide open for that.
Sure enough, after so many close calls, including Brad Marchand firing wide just a minute into overtime, Brent Seabrook blasted a shot past Rask at 9:51 of overtime to end the classic and even the series, 2-2.
“We knew it was going to a tough series, an even series. That’s what we’re having. They’re a great team out there and so are we, so we've just got to go out there -- like you said, it’s a best-of-three now -- and regroup and get ready for Game 5,” Bergeron said.
“[It’s] too late in the season and too late in the playoffs to start criticizing your team,” Claude Julien said afterward. “You look at what you did well. It's a 2-2 series. I think before it started everybody knew it was going to be a tight series. I don't think anybody that is a fan of hockey is disappointed right now. We as a hockey club went into Chicago and won Game 2 and had a chance to win Game 1. We have to go in there and win Game 5. We have the ability to do that.”
In other words, no one ever said this was going to be easy.