The Chicago Blackhawks moved to within a win of clinching the Stanley Cup on Saturday, beating the Boston Bruins 3-1 in a bone-jarring contest that cost both teams key players.
The best-of-seven series now shifts to Boston for Game 6 today with the Blackhawks holding a 3-2 lead and the Bruins needing a victory to extend the series.
“It’s do or die,” Boston coach Claude Julien told reporters. “Right now our goal is to create a Game 7, and to create a Game 7 you’ve got to win Game 6. It’s as simple as that. There is no panic. You’re not going to push us away that easily.”
After a rollicking 6-5 shootout in Game 4, the teams returned to the close-checking, punishing style seen earlier in the series and they both paid the price.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s leading scorer with four goals, exited early in the second period and was later taken to hospital with an unspecified injury.
The Blackhawks were not immune from the wreckage, with captain Jonathan Toews, who assisted on Chicago’s first two goals, not playing the third period after taking a thundering hit from the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk as he cut across the Boston goalmouth.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville would not elaborate on the injury, describing the problem as an “upper-body injury,” but said he was hopeful his captain could play in Boston.
“Its been a war. Its been a battle,” Quenneville said. “Its every game, every shift you’re fighting. You look at every minute from Game 1 to where we’re at today, it’s been an amazing series and relentless hockey, and I commend the guys on both teams for leaving it out on the ice.”
The injuries overshadowed brilliant efforts from Chicago forward Patrick Kane and netminder Corey Crawford, who had been criticized for his shaky play in Game 4.
Searching for more scoring, Quenneville had reshuffled his lines for Game 4, reuniting Toews and Kane with Bryan Bickell and the trio produced instant chemistry, scoring twice.
The line continued to produce magic on Saturday with an opportunistic Kane notching the first two goals.
“Sometimes you catch some breaks,” Kane said. “I think I was in the right spot at the right time tonight on both goals. Playing with Johnny and Bicks, they create a lot of space and I’ve been taking advantage of the space they do make. I think everyone wants to be that guy in big-time games and I’ve been lucky enough in a couple to step up.”
Boston came out playing with desperation in the third period and pulled one back when Zdeno Chara blasted a shot from the left face-off circle past Crawford, but that would be the only puck to get past Crawford as Dave Bolland ended the threat of overtime, scoring into an empty net with 14 seconds to play.
“I’m not really listening to it [the criticism]. I have a job to do,” Crawford said. “Whatever is being said doesn’t really affect what I’m going to do on the ice. It’s going to be another tough game and we’ve got to prepare ourselves to play that tough game again.”