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Sports

June 14, 2013

NHL PLAYOFFS: Lots of fluids, rest after 3OT Stanley Cup opener

Marathon series opener leaves both Bruins, Blackhawks exhausted.

CHICAGO — Long after the celebration was over, Marian Hossa finally made it home and managed to fall asleep around 3 a.m. The Chicago star woke up a few hours later, roused by a noisy neighbor.

“I think my neighbor decided he was going to drill in the morning. That was really unpleasant,” Hossa said Thursday. “You know, hopefully, he is going to get the message for next time, he won’t drill. Feel a little tired today.”

It’s OK, Marian. Everyone was a little tired after a rousing start to the Stanley Cup finals.

Chicago and Boston played three overtimes Wednesday night in the fifth-longest game in the history of the NHL’s marquee series. It finally came to an end — at the stroke of midnight, no less — when Andrew Shaw deflected Dave Bolland’s shot into the goal to give the Blackhawks the victory.

It was a deflating outcome for the Bruins, who also lost important forward Nathan Horton to an injury during the first overtime, while the Blackhawks seemed relieved that they didn’t have to sit on such a heartbreaking loss for two days before Game 2 on Saturday night.

“It’s one of those games being down 3-1, you come back to tie it 3-3, you feel like something was left on the table if you didn’t come back and win it,” forward Patrick Kane said. “The game went a long time. It’s definitely a good feeling winning in the third overtime when it does go that long.”

The winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the title in 56 of the 73 seasons since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for the championship series in 1939. The Blackhawks won the first two games when they beat Philadelphia to win it all in 2010.

Just don’t expect to see much concern coming from the Boston camp. The Bruins dropped the first two games at Vancouver in the 2011 finals, and went on to take the series in seven games.

“I don’t think much is going to rattle our team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We’re a pretty resilient group of guys. We live in the moment.”

Boston was on a power play during the first overtime when Horton tangled with Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in front of the Chicago net. Horton skated off with what appeared to be some sort of upper body injury.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed here,” Julien said. “He’s day to day, and he’s back with us hopefully the next day.”

Horton plays with David Krejci and Milan Lucic on Boston’s dangerous top line, and any sort of extended absence would be a major blow for the Bruins. Lucic had two goals and an assist in Game 1, Krejci had two assists and Horton also had an assist,

The line has 21 goals and 36 assists in the playoffs.

“He’s a guy that’s been coming up big for us in the playoffs,” defenseman Torey Krug said. “To not have him in the rest of that game definitely hurt us. But we have confidence in our guys.”

There were plenty of reasons for optimism for the Bruins, who led 3-1 in the third period and had numerous opportunities to win in the overtimes. Two shots went off posts. Kaspars Daugavins had a terrific opportunity in the third extra session, but was unable to knock it in.

While the Bruins just missed on a couple of great scoring opportunities, Johnny Oduya’s tying goal for Chicago in the third period was headed wide before it went off the left skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. Then there was the carom off Shaw’s right leg for the winning score.

“I think what it shows everybody is it’s going to be a great, tight series,” Ference said. “There’s going to be little plays that do make the difference and that’s fine by us. I think both teams are comfortable in tight games and have dealt with that before. It’s good.”

Besides, the couple of fortunate plays for Chicago were far from a happy accident. The Blackhawks’ emphasis on traffic in front of the net and throwing pucks on the goal paid dividends when they ran into a pair of hot goaltenders in the previous two rounds, and it worked again when they pelted Tuukka Rask with 63 shots in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Expect more of the same for the rest of the series. The Blackhawks think if Rask can see the puck coming, it will be next to impossible to score against the 6-foot-2 goalie.

“Sometimes you can maybe beat them with one-timers, but I think traffic is the key,” Quenneville said. “Loose pucks, getting to the net is critical scoring goals against these top guys.”

The Blackhawks and Bruins had kept an eye on each other for weeks as both teams progressed through the playoffs, but the three-overtime thriller was their first game since Boston’s 3-2 shootout victory on Oct. 15, 2011. There were no games against teams from the other conference during the lockout-shortened season.

After all that video and scouting, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said the Bruins are everything he thought they would be, and then some.

“I know you watch them, now you get to play against them, you see they’re fast, maybe faster than you anticipated,” he said. “Their top line was extremely dangerous. They’ve got some guys that can make plays. They got patience with the puck. Certainly got our attention.”

Follow Jay Cohen on Twitter at @jcohenap.

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