About five hours before the puck dropped Wednesday for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw posted this on his Twitter feed: "The moment we all dreamed about as kids! Game 1 Stanley Cup Finals!''
At midnight at the United Center, the kid from Belleville, Ontario, acted out his hockey fairy tale.
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United Center, 1901 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA
#Shawfact: It doesn't get any better than this.
"Emotions are high,'' said Shaw, so excited he swore on NBC minutes after the goal. "I'm too exhausted to express it. When the opportunity is there, you have to seize it.''
Boston, mark it. The sting of this loss could linger, even for a veteran team. Shaw's game-winner was the 117th shot in a game that lasted 112 minutes, 8 seconds. It was one Shaw will replay in his head for the rest of his life.
"Shawzie is a competitor,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. "The bigger the stage, the bigger the challenge, he does it. He's a warrior. He's relentless.''
At a pregame news conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the Stanley Cup title the most difficult to win in sports. Then the Hawks and Bruins backed him up by needing three overtimes to see who took a 1-0 lead in the series. This best-of-seven looks destined to go eight.
Lightning struck the Willis Tower, thunder rocked the United Center and a storm of overtime hockey left Chicago in a summer daze.
When the Hawks got called for having too many men on the ice with 52 seconds left in the second overtime, it almost was understandable that they were too tired to count. When Bruins big man Zdeno Chara hit the post during the ensuing power play, the clang matched the ringing in every player's ears.
"It was exhausting,'' said goalie Corey Crawford, who had 51 saves.
This was only the eighth Stanley Cup Final game to go to three overtimes — the first since 2008 and the Hawks' first triple-overtime game since 1996.
As good as the first three periods were, the overtimes made them look like the preseason. In the extra sessions, Crawford never has played bigger in the crease. He might have performed better but never for longer, significant stretches. This was a career landmark type of moment for Crawford.
"Winning a final game in OT, that's pretty fun, man,'' Crawford said.
Hard to imagine one of the game's countless pivotal moments came with 6:49 left in the first period — which felt like last week by the end of Game 1.
The Hawks arrived as if they were prepared to play the Boston Bruisers instead of the Bruins, rather than simply being the team that skated past the Kings. When Niklas Hjalmarsson tried going for the big hit instead of making the smart play, it cost the Hawks a goal on a night when every one would be precious. It was like a Hammer to the thumb for the Blackhawks.
Bruins center David Krejci avoided the brunt of Hjalmarsson's contact, controlled the puck and moved it to right wing Nathan Horton, who flicked the puck to Milan Lucic in front of the net. Crawford didn't have a chance. Lucic one-timed it past Crawford to make the Hawks wonder if emphasizing physical play really was worth the effort.
Until Dave Bolland's goal midway through the third period revived the Hawks, the Bruins looked like the better team. Early, when the Hawks weren't trying to be too forceful, they were being too fancy. Nothing illustrated that more than the 5-on-3 in the second period in which the Hawks passed the puck for 1 minute, 17 seconds of futility.
A night's worth of frustration turned into elation when Johnny Oduya knocked in the tying goal off Andrew Ference's skate with 7:46 left. Suddenly, the event a spoiled Hawks fan base had waited all of three years to experience again met the expectations of the crowd.
And what a crowd of happy humans clad in red it was. It ranged from men and women old enough to remember Phil Esposito of the Bruins scoring on Hawks goalie Tony — his brother — in the 1970 playoffs to 20-somethings who probably think Original Six refers to the cast of "Real Housewives."
Whatever the 22,110 fans paid for their tickets, they got their money's worth once the Hawks finally started playing like the team they are paid to be. They got a Cup Final game that instantly went down as a classic when Shaw realized his dream.