To say the Boston Bruins were outplayed in the early part of Game 2 would be a vast understatement.
In fact, things seemed to be going so well for the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period that one couldn't be blamed for wondering how much longer the Bruins could stay in this Stanley Cup Final series, to say nothing of their chances of winning Game 2.
Luckily for the Bruins they had Tuukka Rask between the pipes and he was busy showing why a hot goaltender can change everything this time of year. Without his clutch performance, Boston likely would be staring at a 2-0 deficit, but instead the series is tied at 1-1 as it heads to Beantown for Games 3 and 4.
Thanks to Rask, Boston was able to withstand Chicago's first-period onslaught relatively unscathed and only trailed 1-0 on the scoreboard despite a 19-4 edge in shots for the Blackhawks.
"We really slept through the first period and didn't play very well," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said.
Fortunately for the sleep-walking Bruins, the first-period goal was all Rask would allow. He stopped 33-of-34 shots and kept his teammates in the game, allowing the Bruins to eventually tip the ice in their favor. Chris Kelly tied the game for Boston late in the second period and Daniel Paille scored the OT winner, ripping a shot past Corey Crawford at 13:48 of the extra session.
Combined with his performance in Game 1, when Rask made 59 saves in a 4-3 triple-overtime loss, the goaltender has turned aside 92-of-97 shots so far in the Cup Finals and he may be in the process of willing his franchise to a second Stanley Cup title in three years. Of course, Tim Thomas was the rock in net for Boston in 2011, but if Rask keeps up his pace from these first two games he could wind up joining Thomas not only in the club of Cup-winning goaltenders, but also as a Conn Smythe recipient.
After being bailed out by Rask from the start in Game 2, the Bruins were able to slowly work their way back into the game. By the time overtime began it was clear Boston had fixed the issues that had been plaguing it in the opening period.
That's not to say the Bruins necessarily were outplaying the Blackhawks, who continued to own the battle for puck possession, but Rask's heroics did allow the team to stabilize itself.
"Thankfully our guys rewarded him (Rask) with that effort by being a lot better in front of him for the rest of the game," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
Credit also should go to Julien for pushing the right buttons in helping his team get back in the game.
Julien's best move was switching Tyler Seguin to a new line, pairing the young winger with Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly. The unit accounted for both goals and ended the evening with a combined four points.
"We didn't have much going," Julien said about shaking up his lines. "At one point I thought that line would give us something. They responded well ... I put those three guys together and they answered."
While the Bruins are thankful Rask showed up to play in the first period, the Blackhawks have to be kicking themselves for not burying Boston when it had the chance. Unlike the B's, Chicago was unable to reward its goaltender for a strong performance, as Crawford stood tall with a 26-save performance only to take the loss.
"We had the perfect start to the game," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. "Then we stopped doing what made us successful. We stood around. They countered."
The goal now for the Blackhawks is to begin Game 3 on Monday the way they started Saturday's battle. If they can maintain the pace they had going early in Game 2 for an entire 60 minutes then even another miraculous performance from Rask might not be able to save the Bruins.
After surviving its awful start on Saturday, Boston knows it can't keep relying on its goaltender to do it all. Giving a team as talented offensively as the Blackhawks chance after chance is not a recipe for success and the Bruins know it.
What Boston needs Monday night is to come out strong and put the Blackhawks on their heels for a change. If they can do that then maybe the Bruins can help the seed of doubt planted by Rask in Game 2 grow into something bigger.