Hawks don't back down

CHICAGO -- A best-of-seven series just isn't going to be enough.

Not for two teams that played into Thursday, Wednesday night; that quite literally left it all on the ice in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, including more prone bodies than a peewee game.

After nearly six periods of play -- three overtimes, if somehow that sounds even more impressive -- it seemed only fitting that the third- and fourth-liners of the Blackhawks, the so-called grinders, made the difference in the end with Andrew Shaw redirecting a shot by Dave Bolland for the 4-3 victory.

"That's why we're here," Patrick Sharp said. "We have a deep team, we have scoring on all four lines. For both teams, depth is a key."

Yes, but on this night, only one could win and when it ended, it felt like more than one victory -- a vague sense of momentum that obviously remains to be seen, but was palpable as the Bruins got off the ice faster than they had any right to move at that point.

The only legs deader than the players' at the end of this one belonged to the standing-room-only crowd.

The game took so long, Jaromir Jagr required a hip replacement between overtime periods.

OK, it's late. Actually, Jagr, along with at least a half dozen players on both teams, was very nearly the hero for the Bruins, his power-play wrist shot saved by Hawks goalie Corey Crawford in the closing moments of the second OT.

There were as many spectacular misses, it seemed, as spectacular saves, the teams combining for a staggering 117 shots on goal with Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask fending off 28 potential game winners in overtime before Shaw's decisive blow, and Crawford throwing himself in front of 24 Bruins attempts.

So depleting was the first game that players drank and ate between overtime periods, Sharp describing a scene in the Blackhawks' locker room that included changes of socks, jerseys, skates "and all that stuff."

But it was the mental fatigue, Sharp said, the Hawks were most leery of.

"I think it's harder [than the physical exhaustion], actually," he said. "Once the game starts, you're in hockey mode and your body does what it does ... [but] it's tough to stay focused. Obviously we managed to do that tonight."

After a fast and furious first six minutes by the Hawks in which they seemed intent to prove their physical prowess with crunching hits, each accompanied by a collective grunt/cheer from the home crowd, the Bruins settled in and largely controlled the tempo until the third period.

The Hawks looked particularly vulnerable on two failed second-period power-play opportunities -- including one in which they had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:17 -- managing just one shot on goal combined.

"We had the puck in good areas," said Jonathan Toews, who had five shots on goal for the night. "It just seemed to bounce off our stick, go out of the zone. We had to regroup."

So exhausted were the Hawks, apparently, that they felt they needed an extra man on the ice and got called for it in each of the first two overtime periods. The Bruins had one of their own in the second period. But no goals resulted from the penalties.

In the end, said Sharp, this is what he learned about his team:

"Nothing that we didn't already really know all season long," he said. "We have a team that on any night, someone could be the hero and we've had plenty of situations where we've battled back late in games ..."

Indeed, the Hawks have now scored 18 third-period goals this postseason, a franchise best, and four in overtime, winning all but one overtime game.

But this effort was clearly something special, something that every Hawks fan who goes to work Thursday with a searing headache and a silly grin will remember.

The Hawks will probably remember, too, although there are no guarantees.

"Yeah, obviously emotions are high," Shaw said when asked how he felt. "Too exhausted right now to express it."