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Blackhawks’ Game 1 victory gives hockey good name


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7 p.m. Wednesday

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Updated: August 12, 2013 2:20AM

What we had, playing out in front of us on a continuous loop, was crazed, energy drink hockey. Ferocious hockey. It was the first overtime Wednesday night, and players were gladly sacrificing their bodies on the altar of the Stanley Cup.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was doing some kind of strange, fast-forwarded yoga in the crease, stopping shot after shot by the Bruins with whatever body part was available. At one point, Marian Hossa stepped into the net to take a puck while Crawford was occupied elsewhere. Before it could get there, Dave Bolland whacked it away.

Any buttoned-down defensive hockey the two teams had exhibited in regulation had been ditched for an up-and-down style that perfectly fit the desperation of the first overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

This went on and on at the United Center, right into double overtime, right into a third overtime, right into the good night, a 3-3 game threatening to go into infinity. There were many, many good scoring opportunities, and there were many, many furious pileups in front of the net.

At one point in the first OT, Boston’s Tyler Seguin got ahead of the Hawks’ defense, but his shot was weak and Crawford swept it to the curb.

Players were battling fatigue. Fast-twitch muscles were saying “not so fast.’’ The Hawks’ Patrick Kane had an extended shift in the second overtime, watched the puck slip off his stick on a perfect scoring opportunity and looked like he needed a pillow and a comforter as he skated toward the Hawks’ bench. That’s how it was.

Chance after chance. Denial after denial by Crawford and Tuukka Rask, his Bruins’ counterpart.

First puck to the back of the net wins.

Who wanted it? Well, both teams equally. Let’s not play that game. Everybody’s spirit was willing.

And then Andrew Shaw, the little instigator, redirected a shot by Michal Rozsival that had already been deflected by Bolland, right past Rask for a 4-3 victory in the third overtime. Of course it ended like that. You thought a wild, jagged game would end in a straight line?

“I think the guys are just happy the game’s over,’’ an exhausted Shaw said afterward.

Crawford was simply brilliant, saving the last 35 shots, 29 in the three overtimes. He stopped 51 in all. Rask stopped 59. Ridiculous, the both of them.

“I felt a little more zoned-in in OT,’’ Crawford said. “You always have to make the next save or else it’s over. So just focus on everything. Make sure the next one doesn’t go in.’’

The Hawks were whistled for having too many men on the ice in the first and seconds overtimes, which, after all the effort of the evening, seemed like a very stupid way to lose a hockey game. But the Bruins’ Jaromir Jagr hit the post on the power play near the end of the second period, and life went on for the Hawks.

The Hawks had come back from a 3-1 deficit on third-period goals by Bolland and Johnny Oduya. If any of you said you predicted those two non-stars would score in Game 1, you’re either a liar or a relative. Same with Brandon Saad scoring the Hawks’ first goal.

All of that felt like a lifetime ago when the two teams battled through the overtimes. Nobody wanted to lose.

“This is what it’s all about,’’ Oduya said. “You just feel it when you’re out there in these games. Every play is important. Just the feeling overall is just tremendous. You go out there, you’ve got nothing to lose. You just feel alive.’’

The Hawks had nobody to blame for the hole they found themselves in early. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for more than a minute in the second period. They proceeded to do what they have done so often in those situations: they passed the puck to distraction. They got nothing out of either penalty.

The power play was awful in that second period, and someone surely will say it’s because the electricity cut out during the storms raging outside. Funny. After the debacle with the two-man advantage, they threw in another poor effort with Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara in the penalty box. Nothing funny about that.

The Hawks are up against a lot in this series, against much more than fatigue, sleep deprivation or a faulty power play.

There are huge expectations on them in Chicago, and those expectations go beyond a mere appearance in the Final. This is the team that opened the season with a 24-game point streak. A title to go with their 2010 championship is demanded.

But this is hockey, where the question of “what you have done for me lately’’ weighs more than it does in the other major sports. Many of the national prognosticators have Boston winning the Cup. The aforementioned streak doesn’t mean much to them, probably because it seems like it happened a lifetime ago.

The Bruins have the “hot’’ goalie in Rask, whereas the Hawks have a goalie in Crawford who is merely warm to the touch, we were told heading into this series. Rask gave up only two goals in Boston’s sweep of the previously turbo-charged Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.

The Bruins’ amazing comeback from a 4-1 deficit against Toronto in the third period of Game 7 in the conference quarterfinals has been widely viewed as proof of destiny being on their side.

But on Wednesday night – late, late Wednesday night -- the Hawks let it be known that they have something on their side, beginning with a goalie.

“We knew it was going to be a tough series,’’ Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We’ve seen Boston play all season long and kind of expected a tough game, and they certainly provided one. So it’s going to be a heck of a series.’’

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