Bruins blank defending champion Blackhawks
On an emotional night at TD Garden, the Bruins turned in one of their most complete performances as they blanked the Blackhawks, 3-0, on Thursday. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season and Patrice Bergeron added a pair of goals as Boston (50-17-6) picked up a point in its 14th straight game (13-0-1). This certainly doesn’t make up for Chicago’s (42-17-15) Stanley Cup last season (clinched at the Garden) but at least the B’s gained some confidence after they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Blackhawks on Jan. 19 at the United Center. Who knows? Maybe they’ll meet again in June with another Cup on the line.
“We played well, I thought we got better and better as the game went on,” said Bruins center Chris Kelly. “Tuukka made some big saves early on before we got our feet under us. He’s been our best player all year; he gives us confidence that even if we don’t play our best hockey, we can still have a chance to win.”
Bergeron’s tip-in midway through the first period gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead and also extended his goal-streak to a career-best five games. After a scoreless second period, Carl Soderberg added an insurance goal for the B’s and Bergeron’s second tally came on a bizarre play. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (20 saves) pulled his net off its mooring at the same time that Bergeron shot the puck there. It was reviewed and called a goal as Bergeron picked up his 13th multi-point game of the season. His career-high is 31 goals and at 25 with nine games remaining, he has an outside shot to catch that if he keeps up this torrid pace.
“We had energy in the third period and we looked fresh,” noted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “We are in the right position where you want to be at this time of year. Satisfied is not a word that exists in our dressing room.”
Boston hits the road for a back-to-back this weekend against Metropolitan Division teams: at Washington (34-27-12) on Saturday afternoon (12:30, NESN) and Philadelphia (38-27-7) on Sunday night (7:30, NBC).
What they’ll be saying: As always, the Bruins came through with the perfect pregame ceremony as they honored the Boston Fire Department in numerous ways. Players wore BFD hats during warm-ups and shirts afterwards in the locker room, they showed pictures of Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy on the Jumbotron, members of the Boston Fire Department’s Honor Guard helped Rene Rancourt with the national anthem and finally, they awarded the No. 1 star of the game to the BFD. Julien mentioned wanting to “Bring something that’s positive to help heal and put on an exciting game. The guys did a great job honoring them the right way.” Multiple players talked about being members of the community and Kelly explained that they “felt the pain that the entire city and state feels.”
This is only the seventh time in team history that the Bruins have won 50-plus games. St. Louis trounced Minnesota, 5-1, so the Blues remain one point ahead of Boston for the most points in the NHL. Also, the B’s could have clinched the Atlantic Division title with a loss by Tampa Bay but the Lightning pulled out an absurd 13-round shootout win over the Islanders. That will have to wait for another day.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate