CHICAGO (AP) — Milan Lucic scored two goals and the Boston Bruins took a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks into the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday.
In the first championship meeting in 34 years between Original Six franchises, the teams spent much of the first period feeling each other out — and hitting each other, too.
Then, the Bruins started to take charge and they went ahead at the 13:11 mark after David Krejci knocked Niklas Hjalmarsson off the puck along the boards behind the net. He fed a pass to Nathan Horton, who feathered the puck across to Lucic. His quick wrist shot from the slot in front of the net went past Corey Crawford to make it 1-0.
He struck again just 51 seconds into the second period with a wrist shot, after Hjalmarsson gambled along the boards and fell, allowing Boston to break in.
Chicago started to come on strong after that.
The Blackhawks got on the board just over two minutes later when rookie Brandon Saad scored his first goal of the playoffs. He carried the puck down the ice but was bumped off it in the left corner of the Boston zone. Marian Hossa recovered it and fed Saad in the slot, making it 2-1 and bringing the sellout crowd to their feet.
All their momentum came screeching to a halt on a power play — make that a two-man advantage — midway through the second. A big issue during the regular season, it continues to haunt the Blackhawks in the playoffs.
They came in 7 for 51 on the power play — 12th among the 16 playoff teams — and that number took another hit when they couldn't convert a five-on three advantage, Boston's Nathan Horton got called for interference at 7:37 and the Bruins were whistled for having too many men on the ice at 8:20, but Chicago came away empty.
Before Saad's tally, Tuukka Rask had not given up a goal in 149:36 and he saved 23 shots through the first two periods for the Bruins, who are seeking their second title in three years.
Crawford made 15 stops. But the Blackhawks, back in the finals for the first time since their championship run three years ago, didn't get much going early on. They had a chance in the opening minutes when Saad took a pass from Andrew Shaw, but he got stopped by Rask hugging the post from a few feet out.
Not since the Montreal Canadiens knocked off the New York Rangers in five games in 1979 had Original Six teams played for the championship. But both these teams have been here, done that, with Chicago winning it all in 2010 and Boston taking the championship the following season.
For the Blackhawks, it was a long climb back.
The buzzer had barely stopped ringing after Patrick Kane scored the winning goal against Philadelphia to end a 49-year championship drought when the bulldozer hit Chicago. Salary cap issues forced the Blackhawks to part with a long line of supporting players, and the result was back-to-back first-round playoff losses.
But things sure came together this year. From a 24-game points streak to start to capturing the Presidents' Trophy at the end, no team dominated like Chicago during the regular season. In the playoffs, things haven't been as easy. The Blackhawks took out Minnesota in five games, but had to rally to beat Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals.
They won that one in seven games and didn't blink facing arguably the league's hottest goalie in the conference finals. Instead, they took out Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings, winning Game 5 in overtime on Patrick Kane's third goal of the game to get to this point.
The Bruins, meanwhile, nearly got eliminated in the first round but have been on a roll ever since. They almost got derailed in Round 1 against Toronto, blowing a 3-1 series lead and then falling behind by three in the seventh game.
Then they did something no other team had done. They became the first team in league history to take a Game 7 after trailing by three in the third, with Patrice Bergeron scoring the tying and winning goals. Since then, they've made it look easier.
They beat the New York Rangers in five games and swept Pittsburgh, never trailing and allowing just two goals in the series while keeping former MVPs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin without a point.
Now, here they are, the physical Bruins going against high-flying Blackhawks. Both teams came in with hot goalies, with Rask posting a league playoff-high .943 save percentage for Boston and Crawford not far behind at .935.
A big question for the Blackhawks was how they would get around the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara. Coach Joel Quenneville decided to split up Jonathan Toews and Kane and keep one of his biggest stars away from the big defender, after they played on the same line for the last part of the Los Angeles series.