BOSTON -- The end came on one of those lottery ticket shots that sometimes make hockey seem like the most random of games. There was no real plan for Brent Seabrook, no sense of pinpoint direction. He simply unloaded a slap shot from the point on hope.
You know, you scratch the numbers. You figure that nothing great is going to happen. You've done this a bunch of times, mostly with no success, but every once in a while….
Chicago Blackhawks 6. Boston Bruins 5.
Sometimes you hit the jackpot.
"To be honest, I was just trying to get the shot past their center man, their forward coming out to block it," the Blackhawks defenseman said after his slapper crashed past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask nine minutes and 51 seconds into the extra period to tie the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals at two games apiece last night at TD Garden. "They do such a good job of blocking shots, getting in the way, getting lanes. I just tried to get it past the first guy."
In a game that featured an explosion of offense -- or an implosion of defense, depending on the point of view -- this was the perfect capper. As Seabrook's shot whistled through the late-night air, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was locked in yet another struggle in front of the net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
This was a night-long battle. Sometimes Chara had moved Toews out of the way, giving Rask a chance to gauge the shooters and scooters coming his way. Sometimes Toews had been able to hold strong, to screen the goaltender, to impede his vision.
This was one of those times.
Seabrook's shot hit the back of the net. A building filled with 17,569 patrons became a lending library in a moment. Only the cheers of a small number of Blackhawks fans, red jerseys sprinkled in a field of black and gold, broke the quiet.
"I definitely have to give Seabrook credit for the shot he made," Toews said. "Maybe Rask didn't see it at first. I think I pivoted and maybe let him see it at the end. Obviously it was too late."
The Bruins goalie had stymied the Hawks for five straight periods (and two straight Bruins wins) coming into the game. The plan for this night, emphasized by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, was to present him with much more trouble this time around. Get shots on the goal. Get people in front of the goal. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. Offense had been the reason for the team's success all season.
Quenneville reunited Toews with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell as a top line that was successful earlier in the playoffs. The move seemed to give the entire lineup some extra offensive fizz.
"I like that line," Quenneville said. "Big picture getting reunited, they seem to have some chemistry. Scoring certainly helps. Everybody in that line brings something different to the party. Bicks off the rush can shoot. Kaner has possession. Johnny gets through. It's a nice combination. Nice to see them back and productive, too."
Starting with a flurry -- the shots were 9-0, Chicago, to open the game -- the Hawks stopped Rask's 129:14-minute shutout streak at 6:48 of the first period when Michal Handzus blasted a shot home on a two-on-one break with Brandon Saad. The goal started the barrage for both teams. If the Blackhawks had been caught in the Bruins' more deliberate pace in the past two games, the Bruins were caught now in the Blackhawks' quicker pace.
The carefully quilted Boston defense of layer upon layer, a picket fence of bodies to be outmaneuvered, fell apart. The night became filled with two-on-ones, fast breaks, flashing shots from the outside. As the goals piled up, it seemed that LeBron James could be seen crashing the boards for a thunderous dunk, Manu Ginobli hitting a jumper from behind the arc. What? Offense was cheap as the Blackhawks twice sprinted to two-goal leads and twice were caught by the Bruins.
None of it made Bruins coach Claude Julien very happy. He called a timeout in the middle of the second period in the midst of one of those two-goal deficits to try and restore some order.
"I think we weren't very sharp in our decision making," the coach said. "Where we talked about layers, our defensemen were pinching, our forwards weren't covering up, weren't totally committed to that part of the game. That's when you saw the two-on-ones. There was a lot of our game tonight that was just average and average isn't good enough at this time of the season."
This message already had been distributed to the troops. The Bruins will have certain homework assignments for the next two days.
"I guess we didn't communicate enough," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "We know they're a good team. They have some good transition. We gave them time to, I guess, get some speed and attack our defensemen with some good speed. We've got to do a better job of that…"
Despite all of this trouble, when defenseman Johnny Boychuk labeled a slapper past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with almost eight minutes left in the third period, the score was tied, 5-5. All things were possible for the remainder of regulation and over nine minutes of overtime.
"It just felt like it was a run-and-gun kind of game," Boychuk said, a final Bruins lament. "We had a chance to win in overtime. It was just one shot at the end."
The shot, alas, belonged to Brent Seabrook.
The series goes back to Chicago. Best two-out-of-three. Advantage Blackhawks.
Now the real fun begins.