BOSTON – The start was there, exactly the one the Chicago Blackhawks needed against a Boston Bruins team that’s been surging late this season.
But after those first few minutes the Blackhawks’ opportunities dried up, either by their own lack of creating them or the Bruins’ ability to deny them. And just over nine months after their indelible Game 6 performance here, the Blackhawks had a very forgettable one.
Patrice Bergeron scored two goals, including the game-winner, and Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots for his seventh shutout this season as the Bruins beat the Blackhawks 3-0 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks are still in fourth place in the Western Conference and still have a three-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche – at least at the time this story was written. Colorado hosted Vancouver later in the evening.
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It was a bad night for the Blackhawks, who did not clinch a playoff berth; their loss, coupled with Phoenix’s shootout victory over New Jersey, saw to that. But this wasn’t about the postseason, which the Blackhawks will surely make. It was about another blanking – the third they’ve suffered this season and the second in the past week – and an all-around lackluster effort.
“It was a perfect start and it slowed to a crawl the way we saw it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We were easy to play against; we didn’t press enough. We had some chances late in the third but we were not very good tonight.”
The Blackhawks did look good at the start. They were pushing the pace, they were winning the battles and were getting some good looks on Tuukka Rask. The Bruins nevertheless struck first, and got that critical first goal from a guy who’s been hot lately. Bergeron’s slick redirect off Matt Bartkowski’s shot gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 11:50 into the first period. It was Bergeron’s fifth goal in as many games.
“We had our chances at the start to take the lead. They found a way to get one and they’re a tough team to get back on once they get one,” Kris Versteeg said. “We just couldn’t find much out there.”
It got tougher to get back into this one early in the third, when the Bruins scored twice in 13 seconds. Carl Soderberg scored his 14th of the season and seconds later, Bergeron scored after Corey Crawford made a bad pass behind the net. That Bergeron goal was initially waved off; Crawford had pushed the net off its moorings. But replay showed the puck crossed the line before the net came up, making it a good goal and giving the Bruins a 3-0 advantage.
Yes, the Bruins are a tough squad to face when they get any kind of lead. But Quenneville was just as disappointed in the Blackhawks’ lack of urgency.
“I didn’t like the push,” he said. “It wasn’t hard enough or sustained enough.”
The Blackhawks, who take on Ottawa on Friday night, aren’t happy that they’ve been shut out twice in the last week. But they’re not tremendously concerned about it either. They’re working through some injuries, some long term (Patrick Kane) and some that could be healing soon (Bryan Bickell). Still, their lack of push in some games isn’t good, and it’s something they’ve got to change before too long.
“It’s disappointing, especially way played in a couple games lately,” Patrick Sharp said. “Tonight we could’ve been a lot better. Everyone seems to be tightening up and tuning up their teams and lineups and playing good hockey down the stretch. We have to put this one behind us and play a good one tomorrow. That’s the good thing about playing 24 hours later: you can forget this and apply all the things that didn’t happen tonight, tomorrow.”