"I just don't think we were ready," Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said. "We were just making mental mistakes and maybe thought the game was at a different time."
By the time the Bruins decided to show up, it wasn't too late to salvage something out of Saturday night. Taking advantage of their breaks, they overcame a horrendous start and beat the Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime on Daniel Paille's goal that tied the series at a game apiece.
"If somebody would watch the first period, they would've said, 'Oh, give them the Cup right now,'" Bruins right-winger Jaromir Jagr said. "If somebody watched the overtime, they'd say, 'Oh, it's gonna be a long series.'"
It very well could be a long series, in games and minutes. These two teams went into overtime for the second straight game to start the final, and while this one was not a triple-overtime marathon, the extra time made it another classic.
Based on Boston's start, it could have been a dud dominated by Chicago. The Blackhawks carried the play in the first period, requiring Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask to add another chapter to his case for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
When Patrick Sharp scored 11:22 in, it was evidence of the Blackhawks thoroughly out-classing the Bruins. Were it not for the officials disallowing a goal by Marian Hossa 90 seconds later, Chicago would have been rolling and United Center would have been deafening.
"We just weren't there. We were on our heels," coach Claude Julien said. "Like I told our guys, we've got to show up on time for these kind of games. It could have cost us."
Outshot 19-4 in the first period, the Bruins shifted into what Rask called "survival mode."
"It looked like they had more guys out there than we did," he said. "They were pouncing on every single puck in front of net."
Rask was the "difference-maker," captain Zdeno Chara said, as the Bruins were lucky to go into the first intermission only down by one. Centre Chris Kelly acknowledged that it was a pretty quiet locker-room after the first because "not much needed to be said."
The opposite was true for the Blackhawks, who had plenty of opportunities in the first period to build on their lead. When they couldn't, it came back to haunt them.
"When you score a goal and are playing the way we were playing in the first period, you need to find a way to sustain that and we didn't quite do that," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.
All it took was one mistake by the Blackhawks to tie the score. Sharp lost the puck behind the net to Paille, who dodged Blackhawks defenceman Nick Leddy and put it in front. It pinballed to Kelly, who buried it to silence the crowd of 22,154.
"It was a great five-guy effort," Kelly said. "Andrew (Ference) made a pinch, Tyler was in on the play and got it to Daniel, and Daniel took it to the net. I just happened to be there, tapped it in."
The momentum clearly shifted, and Jagr and his teammates could sense it. But the clock still ticked away to overtime, where the Bruins had plenty of chances.
None were better than when Jagr hit the post and looked to the ceiling with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
"That would be kind of sad if we lose the hockey game, but, hey, it always next game because we won," Jagr said.
This veteran Bruins team was careful not to "overreact," according to Chara. Then, 13:48 into overtime, Seguin made a perfect pass to Paille, who tied the series.
"I just tried to shoot it off as quick as I can with the D coming at me," he said. "I was glad to see it go in."
In a series of inches, Chara said the only difference in Game 2 was that the Bruins scored one more goal. Now it's all even going to Boston for Monday's Game 3.
The Blackhawks knew it wasn't going to be easy.
"I think both sides felt it was going to be a tight series and that every shift was going to matter," Sharp said. "You saw in this game it is pretty evenly matched, so I expect more of the same heading forward."