CHICAGO -- In the moment when Michal Rozsival's point shot ricocheted first off teammate Dave Bolland's stick and then off Andrew Shaw's leg and past a helpless Tuukka Rask to bring this epic Stanley Cup final tilt to an end came two thoughts.
First: Thank goodness.
Second: Can we do that again? Now?
And again and again and again?
If Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, a 4-3 triple-overtime victory for the host Chicago Blackhawks, is any indication, the series the hockey world had been anticipating is going to deliver the goods. And then some.
After both conference finals fell far short in the drama department, Wednesday’s final-series opener delivered 112:08 of hockey at its most dramatic. A rollicking back-and-forth affair that left both players and fans limp with exhaustion.
"It’s fun being in the finals, the last two teams playing, all the hockey world is watching, and to be put an effort like that from both sides, it was fun to be a part of," Patrick Sharp said.
"And thank god it’s over," he added.
An elated Shaw managed to drop an F-bomb on NBC after his big goal, and then found it difficult later to put the experience into words.
"Emotions are high, but [I'm] too exhausted right now to express it," Shaw said.
Forget the idea that these two teams would require time to feel each other out; perhaps start in a cautious manner, as so often happens at the start of a playoff series. The Bruins and Blackhawks started this one in mid-stride, in full flight, if you will. And over the course of a little more than five and a half periods revealed the kind of character one would expect of two teams that have risen above the rest in this playoff spring.
Two battle-tested teams pushing forward, only to be pushed back.
The Bruins would strike first, and then again with two Milan Lucic goals.
And how much have the Bruins loved a lead? They never trailed in their four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals and were 8-2 this playoff year when scoring first and 5-0 when leading after the first period.
After rookie of the year nominee Brandon Saad tallied his first of the postseason to make it 2-1 early in the second period, the Bruins looked like they would coast to a Game 1 victory when Patrice Bergeron restored the two-goal lead with a laser on the power play.
It was the first power-play goal for the Bruins since Game 5 of the second round and only the fourth power-play goal the Blackhawks had allowed all spring.
But these Blackhawks are no strangers to adversity, having overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. There is no crumble in that room.
They scored twice in 4:14 in the third period -- the tying goal coming off a Johnny Oduya shot that glanced past Rask off defenseman Andrew Ference's skate, setting the stage for a frenetic stretch of overtime hockey.
After tying the game, the Blackhawks appeared as though they would push the Bruins right out of Game 1 altogether.
The Hawks had the better chances in the second overtime frame.
The Bruins twice had power plays thanks to too-many-men-on-the-ice calls against Chicago, one in the first overtime and one in the final minute of the second overtime. In those final seconds of the fifth period, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s point shot eluded netminder Crawford but hit the post.
In the third overtime, Kaspars Daugavins had a glorious chance for the Bruins. The winger, picked up on waivers from Ottawa early in the season, had the puck alone in front and Crawford down, but he could not find the back of the net, tripping to the ice as the puck skittered wide. Television cameras caught him with his head resting on the edge of the bench, a mixture of exhaustion and frustration.
"I was more frustrated that I missed it, and after I missed it I thought maybe a call because it was pretty obvious there was a stick in my foot. But you have to score those chances. You can’t let those slide by, especially in triple overtime," Daugavins said.
Moments later, Shaw would make that miss seem exponentially larger.
Each team creating a chance, making a defensive play to deny a chance.
Reset. Then go again. Punch, counterpunch.
Chance for chance, hit for hit, save for save.
By the end of the night, Boston had been credited with 59 hits, Chicago 61.
They were virtually equal in faceoff wins and losses.
"I mean, both teams are just kicking, trying to survive. Every time you go back on the ice, you just try and get that feeling that it's just going to be that one chance that makes the difference," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.
While the Bruins, who have never trailed in a series this spring, will need to regroup by Saturday's Game 2, there was still a sense of having been involved in something remarkable on this night.
"Think about it overnight and you realize we’ve been down a lot worse. It’s one game. It was a fun game to be a part of. It was great hockey out there," said Tyler Seguin, who assisted on the Bergeron goal. "By the end of those overtimes, I talked to a couple of guys on their team just saying, 'Someone end it, please.' The boys were getting tired."
A couple of hours before puck drop, commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media, and among the questions were several about the lockout that threatened at one point to scuttle the entire season. The show put on by the Bruins and Blackhawks made it seem as though the labor dispute was a bad dream.
"We said it was going to be a series like that, and [if] the first game’s any indication, we weren’t wrong," Thornton said. "We had our chances and all of those overtimes; rang one off the post on the power play at the end of the second overtime. It’s playoff hockey. It’s fun to watch. We’ll think about this 'til we get out of here, and then got to shake it off and get ready for Saturday."
The only shame is that we have to wait that long to see how the next one turns out.