Game 1 of Stanley Cup Finals delivered the ratings bonanza the NHL desperately needed

So how big were the ratings? Game 1 of the Bruins / Blackhawks NHL Stanley Cup Final earned a 4.8 overnight rating on NBC Wednesday night, up 100% from Kings / Devils Game 1 last year (2.4), and up 50% from Bruins / Canucks Game 1 in 2011 (3.2).

The 4.8 is the highest overnight for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final since Red Wings / Flyers on FOX in 1997 (5.1), and the third-highest Game 1 overnight since the final returned to broadcast television in 1995. Only Panthers / Avalanche Game 1 in 1996 (5.2) and the aforementioned Red Wings / Flyers game earned better numbers.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins battled for 112 grueling minutes in the fifth-longest Stanley Cup Final game in NHL history, until an Andrew Shaw deflection goal at 12:08 of triple overtime handed Game 1 to the home team, 4-3.

The game-winner came after the Blackhawks successfully pinched in the offensive zone, with the puck ending up on defenseman Michal Rozsival’s stick at the top of the zone. He shoveled the puck toward the Bruins goal, and it deflected off of a screening Dave Bolland in the slot. The puck then spun off the knee of forward Andrew Shaw and in behind goalie Tuukka Rask, setting off a raucous celebration inside United Center.

“It’s what we needed to do,” said Shaw. “We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty at this point.”

It wasn’t, and it wasn’t going to be. The Blackhawks and Bruins played the kind of game many expected: brutal and tough, with players earning every inch of ice against their opponents.

Outside of United Center on Wednesday night, there was torrential rain, severe storms and tornadoes spotted roughly 30 miles away from Chicago. Inside of United Center, there was controlled chaos.

The Bruins looked like they were on the verge of putting the game away in the third period.

A pair of Milan Lucic goals had spotted them a 2-0 lead; Brandon Saad’s first of the playoffs for the Blackhawks cut the lead 2:17 after Lucic’s second goal in the second period. Then, in the third, Patrice Bergeron’s bullet of a shot beat Corey Crawford from the left side, giving the Bruins a power-play goal on their first opportunity of the series and a 3-1 lead.

Dave Bolland cut the lead to 3-2 with 12 minutes left in regulation, on a takeaway by Andrew Shaw that became a pass to Bolland for a one-timer. Johnny Oduya tied the game just over four minutes later with a shot that glanced off the left skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and past Rask.

Then Shaw won it after 52:08 of overtime hockey, the fifth longest game in Final history.

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