The Boston Bruins collected their first victory of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night by checking the Blackhawks relentlessly and wearing them down.
The payoff came in overtime, when Adam McQuaid bashed Brandon Bollig, allowing the puck to squirt to Tyler Seguin in the Hawks’ zone. One pass to Daniel Paille later, the puck was in the net, the Bruins had a 2-1 victory, and had squared the series.
Having outhit the Hawks 50-34, and having outshot the Hawks 24-15 from the second period on, the Bruins gained home ice advantage in the series, and host Game 3 tonight at TD Garden. The question for the Hawks is how they respond, having faded against Boston’s physical play.
“I thought we lost the pace of the game (in the defensive end) of the rink,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Game 2. “We had the perfect start to the game, then we stopped doing what made us successful. We stood around. They countered.”
The Hawks didn’t just stand around, they were also pushed around, and appeared to gradually suffer the effects of a physical hangover from Wednesday night’s triple-overtime epic, a game they won. The Bruins filled the vacuum.
“We didn’t have a very good first 20, but as the game went on we were playing better and better, and creating pretty good scoring chances in overtime,” Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara said. “We knew we were much better than those first 20, and wanted to prove it. So we did.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien did two things. He shuffled the lineup, putting Paille, Segiun and Chris Kelly together after the first period, and he let his team know verbally that the first period wasn’t acceptable.
“Every once in a while your decibels have to change a little bit in the dressing room, just to get their attention,” Julien said Sunday in Boston. “In the second period, when we started moving our feet, slowly our game came back. Eventually our hands started coming back, the plays started happening.
“By overtime I thought we had pretty good control of that period.”
And the Hawks were back on their heels.
“We waited too long, we weren’t moving our feet and we were caught standing still,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’re easy to check when you do that. We just kind of let them play their way and we didn’t make them earn it. That’s a little disappointing.”
Their task in Game 3 is to press the advantage while silencing the Garden’s gallery.
“You just got to go in there and play hard in their rink,” Dave Bolland said. “It’s not an easy rink to play in, I remember that. We’ve just got to play hard and play our game.”
It’s been said since early in the season, but the Hawks also have to get the power-play going. The pace of 12.3 percent is bad enough, but the disarray of their attack, from entering the zone to setting up shots, is even worse.
Improvement would come if Toews and Patrick Kane stepped up, but they’ve also been quiet at even strength. Toews has one goal in the playoffs — he had seven, and 29 points, in the 2010 run to the Cup — and Kane, aside from his three-goal hat trick in the clincher against Los Angeles, has three goals in his other 18 games.
“You always have to have your foot on the gas against this team,” Bolland said. “They’re a big team and they play hard and they’re going to hit, so you’ve got to be ready for that.”
If the Hawks aren’t ready, they’ll return to Chicago after Game 4 fighting to keep the series alive.