Watching the Bruins win Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday, many onlookers thought the Chicago Blackhawks looked like a beaten team.

The Western Conference champions, so confident just a week earlier, appeared resigned to the fact that, despite all their myriad talents, they were up against a team they weren’t going to beat.

It was a logical conclusion: In the nearly 14 periods of play, counting overtime, the Hawks had been able to play the up-tempo, open style of hockey they favor only in maybe 2-3 periods. Most of the time, it had been the Bruins setting the tone — frustrating the Chicago stars, while limiting the high-quality chances faced by Tuukka Rask.

If the Bruins had been able to pick up in Wednesday’s Game 4 where they left off in their stifling 2-0 victory two nights earlier, there is every reason to believe the clubs would be back in Chicago today with the B’s owning a 3-1 series lead.

Instead, of course, it was the Blackhawks who called the tune Wednesday night at the Garden. From the drop of the puck, they outskated and outworked the B’s. They passed and skated well, they hit, they crowded Rask, they were first on the puck and they won the 50-50 battles for possession.

No doubt, the entertaining game featured lots of ebbs and flows for both teams, innumerable changes of momentum before a perfect, far-corner point shot by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook beat a well-screened Rask to end the wild 6-5 shootout at 9:51 of OT.

But the mere fact that the term “wild shootout” applies tells you all you have to know: The Hawks turned this into the game they want to play, not the game the Bruins want to play.

“That was almost the pace of like how a Pittsburgh would want to play, or a team that has so much offensive power,” said Tyler Seguin yesterday. “I’m not saying that we don’t, but we’re so successful when we’re good in our own zone, going from our goalie out, and then going and scoring goals.”
After a contest that was far too wide open, the B’s know they must return to a tighter style of play in Game 5, or a Stanley Cup that seemed so easily within reach may well slip away.

“Our game is definitely D-zone first,” said Seguin. “Giving up that many goals is never in our game plan. We don’t win games by going back and forth, or having that high scoring a game. We’ve got to be better in the next one.”

The problem is, the doubt that seemed to have seeped into the minds of the Chicago players has now been erased. The Hawks now have the template for what they need to do and the confidence to do so.