In what turned out to be an epic, triple-overtime marathon, Andrew Shaw deflected a Michal Rozsival shot from the point (which also deflected off Dave Bolland's stick) to give the Blackhawks the game-winning score in a 4-3 victory.
What makes this loss tough on the Bruins is the fact they surrendered a pair of two-goal leads, 2-0 and 3-1, as Chicago mounted a comeback and eventually won in the third OT. The Bruins are 4-2 in overtime games this spring.
Even though the Blackhawks erased those deficits, Boston had plenty of chances but couldn't capitalize while Chicago reaped the benefits of a few lucky bounces, none bigger than on the final goal.
"In overtime, we got better," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We got a little stronger. We had some great looks, some great opportunities. We just didn't bury them.
"Eventually, somebody is going to score a goal as fatigue sets in. Not disappointed in our effort. There's certain things you're going to want to fix for next game. But as far as the game is concerned, it was a hard-fought game."
When Shaw's goal went in at 12:08 of the third overtime, the Bruins knew they had let Game 1 slip through their fingers.
"One shot. Tip. Goal," said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 59 saves.
With the Bruins holding a 3-1 lead in the third period, Boston turned the puck over in its own end, and the error resulted in Chicago's second goal by Dave Bolland at the eight-minute mark. Then defenseman Johnny Oduya's shot from the point was redirected in off Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference's skate to tie the game 3-3 at 12:14 of the third.
"We had the game," Rask said. "We were up 3-1 in the third, and then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal, a tough bounce leads to the tying goal, and we just gave it away. We've got to be better than that. We definitely didn't play our best game. We turned the puck over too many times and didn't manage the pucks good enough."
Players on both teams were completely drained as the overtime periods wore on. Both sides had plenty of chances to end it, but Rask and Chicago goalie Corey Crawford were making timely saves to keep their teams alive.
At that point of the game, it always seems to be a fluke goal that proves to be the game winner.
"Especially going into the third overtime, you're not going to make any fancy backdoor plays," Rask said. "Especially in the last overtime, we were forcing the play a little too much. They just shot the puck, found its way in, and they won the game."
Bruins forward Milan Lucic produced a strong game. He scored two goals to give Boston a 2-0 lead, but as the game wore on, fatigue became a factor.
"It gets tougher and tougher, but at the end of the day, you have to find a way to dig deep and try to win the game," Lucic said. "I think we played well in all three periods in overtime to give ourselves a chance to win, but unfortunately we didn't get the result."
With less than a minute remaining in the second overtime, the Blackhawks were called for too many men and the Bruins went on the power play. During the man advantage with only seconds remaining, Zdeno Chara's slap shot from the point rang off the inside of the right post.
Of all the chances the Bruins had in overtime, forward Kaspars Daugavins had the best opportunity. Less than two minutes prior to Shaw's game winner, Daugavins had a wide-open net but couldn't put it home.
"I got a great feed from Seguin on the back door. I thought the goalie was covering it, but on the replay I saw I could've put it straight in," Daugavins said. "I took it to my backhand and had a wide-open net pretty much, and I should have gone up and scored. I got tripped, I was falling, and I missed my shot."
Julien had shortened his bench, so Daugavins logged only 9:11 of ice time during regulation. He had fresh legs late, so Julien gave him the nod in the third overtime, and Daugavins had some chances.
"That's my role here," Daugavins said. "The guys were playing a lot of minutes and it's triple overtime, so you try to use more bodies. I was pretty fresh, Coach put me out there, I had legs, and I was going. I played a pretty good game until I should have scored. Now we're down 1-0."
Prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Daugavins hadn't played since May 1. He had been a healthy scratch until teammate Gregory Campbell suffered a broken leg in Game 3. Daugavins had a few scoring chances in Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and a couple more in Game 1 against the Blackhawks, but he couldn't finish.
"He's a great guy too, and you hope one goes in for him and he can step up and score a big goal there," Lucic said. "But it wasn't just that one. There were plenty of chances we had in overtime, and we had a two-goal lead, and we need to do a better job not letting it come to that. He needs to step up, and he's going to be a good player for us in this series, and he needs to turn the page on that."
Game 1 was the longest of this postseason and stands as the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup finals history. The Bruins had the opportunity to gain the early series momentum, but they allowed the Blackhawks to snatch it from them.
"It wasn't our night," Rask said.
Fortunately for both teams, puck drop on Game 2 isn't until Saturday, providing sufficient recovery time. The Bruins aren't concerned about the deficit.
"Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver. It never stopped us from coming back," Julien said. "This certainly won't. When you look at the game, it could have gone either way. I thought we had some real great looks in overtime. With a little bit of luck, we could have ended it before they did.
"But that's the name of the game. They got a good break on their tying goal going off one of our skates. That's the way the game goes. Some nights you get the break going your way; some nights you don't. As far as I'm concerned, two good teams tonight that played extremely hard. Unfortunately, there's a loser and a winner."