The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a pivotal victory over the Boston Bruins on their home ice in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, 3-1, Saturday night in Chicago.
After a crazy 11-goal game between the two teams on Wednesday night that saw the Blackhawks even up the series at two apiece, Chicago now holds a 3-2 advantage in the series. This one didn't feature the same amount of offense, but it was certainly an entertaining game marked by excellent goaltending and exciting action.
The Bruins defense appeared ready to return to it's pre-Game 4 form in the early going. The physical Boston defense established the tone with physical play and kept Chicago's scoring opportunities to a minimum, as hockey analyst Jesse Spector pointed out, the Bruins had an early 6-2 shot advantage.
However Chicago's perseverance would pay off. Despite the physical play and early saves from Tuukka Rask the Blackhawks scored first thanks to a hustle play from Patrick Kane off the rebound of Johnny Oduya's blocked shot.
The goal would turn out to be the only score of a tightly contested first period. As Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, the only stat that wasn't close was hits; the Bruins racked up 23 in the opening frame to the Hawks' nine.
The poor play for Boston's defense would continue early on in the second period. As a result of yet another scramble in front of the net, Kane once again found himself in the perfect position and took advantage.
To add salt to the wound of going down 2-0, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron also went down with an injury. After scoring two goals in Game 4, he was only able to play 49 seconds in the second period, per CSN New England's Joe Haggerty, and would not return to the game.
Playing without Bergeron proved difficult for the Bruins, as the offense was outshot 11-5 by the Blackhawks in the second.
Sensing the pressure of a 2-0 deficit in the final frame, the Bruins came out with a renewed sense of urgency. They finally caught their break when Zdeno Chara took a feed from behind the net and blasted it past Corey Crawford, who had 20 saves prior to the goal.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the final period against a surging Bruins attack, the Blackhawks would suffer an unfortunate injury of their own as Jonathan Toews was forced out in the critical final period. He had two assists prior to leaving the game.
They also had to deal with the excellent goaltending of Rask, who, despite giving up the two early goals, contributed plenty of highlight saves. Including this denial of Kane in the final period.
As great as Rask was and as physical as the Bruins defense played, Crawford turned out to be Boston's undoing. The Blackhawks defense shut down all of the Bruins' late-game surges, and even scored a third goal on Boston's empty net with 13.6 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Now they will attempt to raise the Stanley Cup when the series goes back to Boston for Game 6 on Monday.