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June 25. 2013 6:47PM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: A tough end to the story


Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara, left, hugs Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa after the Blackhawks won Game 6 of their NHL Stanley Cup Finals hockey series in Boston. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

IT ALL happened so fast, there was little time to process it.

In the blink of an eye, the Boston Bruins went from the brink of forcing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final to watching the Chicago Blackhawks take the Cup for a skate around the ice at TDGarden Monday.

“It felt like we had it, you know? It feels like we lost it,” said Bruins forward David Krecji. “We had a Game 7 in front of us. It was right there. I felt we played a pretty good game, and we lost it. We just gave it to them, basically.”

Boston had not played a perfect game, but it had done enough. Milan Lucic’s goal at 12:11 of the third period had given the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Chicago was going to press, of that there was no doubt. But if Boston could hang on, a winner-take-all Game 7 awaited for tonight.

The clocked ticked down. The Bruins killed a Blackhawks power play. The TDGarden crowd started to stir as the time drained under 2:00.

And then came the heartbreak, all in span of 18 seconds of game time.Bryan Bickel tied the game with 1:16 remaining. Tough to swallow, but at least overtime could still go Boston’s way.

Then came the dagger of Dave Bolland’s goal with 58.3 seconds to go. Even with almost a minute of playing time left, Bruins fans knew the truth. Only the staunchest of positive thinkers could have been keeping the faith at that time.

The truth was too brutal to ignore. Chicago was going to win. There would be no miracle from the hockey gods for Boston. The miracle had already been delivered and it was addressed to the Blackhawks.

“It’s tough to put words to describe how we’re feeling right now,” said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, who played through the pain of a broken rib and more in Game 6. “You work so hard just to get to this point and give yourself a chance to get the Cup. And you feel like you’re right there, and you have a chance to force Game 7, and definitely it hurts. It doesn’t work your way. Have to give credit to Chicago. They played a great series. But at the same time, it’s the last thing you want to say. It hurts to see them hoisting the cup.”

There were three lapses that led to Chicago’s three goals in Game 6. They were not the only mistakes the Bruins made Monday, but they were the ones that hurt because Chicago made them hurt.

The Blackhawks tied the game at 1-1 in the second period. Off a neutral zone faceoff, Michal Rozsival chipped the puck off the right wing boards. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was caught flat-footed. Jonathan Toews raced in a snapped a puck through Tuukka Rask’s five-hole.

Lucic’s goal in the third period was set to erase the previous error, however. But then Lucic himself played a big part in Bickel’s tying goal. Toews was able to find Bickel all alone in front of the net, Lucic a step too late in covering Bickel. The puck was one-timed home and Chicago had tied the game at 2-2 with 1:16 remaining.

Then it was Bruins defender Johnny Boychuk, puck-watching and reacting too late to cover Bolland on the left post as Michael Frolik’s tipped shot from the point bounced to Bolland and he banged the Cup-winning goal home.

Perhaps it is unfair to single out those plays as the reason Boston lost. There were many good plays made by the Bruins in the game and several other times when Chicago had near misses off other miscues.

But mistakes are exploited by the best teams at crucial times and the Blackhawks did everything right in those tiny fragments of time and that is why they won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.

The Bruins played a gutsy series, but that will provide little solace right now while the sting is still fresh.

Boston also lost to the team that most prognosticators had winning the Cup all along. The Blackhawks led the NHL wire-to-wire. They began the year with a record-setting run of success, starting 21-0-3.

Again, there is little solace to be found in losing, even to a team as good as Chicago. For those who bleed black and gold, this one will leave a scar.

Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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