A night to remember in Chicago

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Perhaps it was the hockey gods’ way of rewarding us for coming back after another lockout.

Remember the lockout? Seems like a long time ago now.

Actually, when you think about it, maybe all that extra time off made Wednesday’s marathon thriller in Chicago possible. Both the Blackhawks and Bruins came into the 2013 Stanley Cup Final remarkably healthy after a 48-game regular season and three playoff rounds, save for one Gregory Campbell.

Certainly, neither team lacked energy in Game 1.

Well, not for the first few periods.

But let’s not start thinking that the NHL’s most recent work stoppage was even kind of a good thing; it wasn’t.

Tonight’s game was, though. This was why the fans came back. For a game like that.

And you thought it was exciting outside the United Center…

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It was a double deflection in triple overtime that ended it, giving the Blackhawks the 4-3 victory. The hero was Andrew Shaw, a 21-year-old that was drafted 139th overall a couple of years ago.

The hero might’ve been a 25-year-old Latvian playing in just his third game this postseason, except Kaspars Daugavins couldn’t bury it minutes earlier for the Bruins.

Frankly, the hero might’ve been almost anyone, given the number of chances in sudden death.

In all, there were 117 shots registered in the 112:08 of hockey — 63 on Boston’s Tuukka Rask and 54 on his counterpart, Corey Crawford, who had his name chanted by the capacity crowd of 22,110, minus the handful who showed up in Bruins sweaters.

“Crowe was great,” said ‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. “He kept us in there. He made several all-alone plays and saves. Had some odd-man breaks, some dangerous looks. He was great.”

Meanwhile, Bruins bench boss Claude Julien admitted the loss hurt, but he also pointed to what his team did just two years ago.

“Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver,” said Julien. “It never stopped us from coming back. 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.”

Game 2 goes Saturday.

It has some rather large shoes to fill.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.