Patrick Kane had been struggling to score lately, be it during regulation or overtime or the shootout, where he was 0-for-9 entering Sunday’s matinee with the Boston Bruins.
But a patented slow-down and a wrist shot later, Kane could exhale.
Kane recorded the shootout winner, and the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Bruins, 3-2, in the first meeting between the two since the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks have won their last two and moved to within four points of first-place Anaheim, who was idle today.
There weren’t playoff implications or a Cup at stake on Sunday, but the entertainment factor and caliber of hockey were there just as much as they were in June. The Blackhawks dictated the pace early and got that elusive overtime/shootout victory that’s eluded them lately.
“Great hockey game; the pace was tremendous at the start and it didn’t stop,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who earned his 692nd career coaching victory to move into a tie for third overall (with Dick Irvin). “They’re a dangerous team. They have patience and play recognition, and they have all guys active and wanting the puck. It’s a great test, and it’s nice to finally get a shootout win, too.”
Marian Hossa scored his 20th goal of the season, and Brandon Bollig added his fifth. Brad Marchand brought the offense for the Bruins, scoring his 13th and 14th of the season. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 36 in regulation and overtime for the victory; Tuukka Rask stopped 35 of 37 in the loss.
Kane was on a red-hot scoring pace for a good chunk of the season, but he’s now gone without a regulation/overtime goal in his last 10 games. Just getting that shootout winner, however, was a big weight off his shoulders.
“I think when you have the record I did in the shootout, it’s always nice to score,” he said. “It seemed like we were in a position where we were going to win it early and I didn’t even have to go, but it was definitely nice to capitalize when you’re struggling in that area.”
His teammates figured he’d score there eventually.
“The plays he makes sometimes makes you laugh on the bench, he’s so skilled,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “The way he’s been playing this year, he’s impressive to watch. He’s been carrying our team a lot of the times. I wasn’t worried about him. It was just a matter of time before he scored.”
The Blackhawks looked like they had their caffeine early in this one, setting a torrid pace. Hossa scored off a Patrick Sharp pass for a 1-0 advantage just 4:13 into the game. But Marchand got his first with 18.9 seconds remaining in the first, deflating the United Center and tying the game, 1-1. Marchand was there again just 50 seconds into the second period, beating the Blackhawks’ defense and Crawford for a 2-1 lead.
Then, a rare call came. Jonathan Toews broke his stick and tossed it in the air, the handle portion of it landing in the stands. Toews was whistled for a 10-minute misconduct. Rule 53.4 under Throwing Equipment stipulates that:
"A misconduct penalty shall be imposed on a player who unintentionally or accidentally throws his stick or any part thereof or any other object or piece of equipment outside the playing area. If the offense is committed intentionally, a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed to the offending player. If the offense is committed in protest of an official’s decision, a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct plus a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed to the offending player."
Asked if he had seen anything like that before, Quenneville said, “I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard about it,” to laughs.
The Blackhawks managed without their captain. Bollig scored his goal from a very sharp angle, his shot sneaking between the pipe and Rask’s left leg pad, to tie the game, 2-2, midway through the second period.
It was a good weekend for the Blackhawks. Their games against Anaheim and Boston were reminiscent of the strong hockey they were playing through November and December, and it was a reminder of what they can do when they’re at their best.
“Maybe our matchups were something that may have sparked us a bit,” Toews said. “To go head-to-head with Anaheim, we had a lot of success, and we ready for that same thing with the game today. We have to keep up with that effort, regardless of who we’re playing.”