The marquee meeting in the NHL, a rematch of last year’s excellent Stanley Cup Final, lived up to they hype as Chicago outlasted Boston, 3-2, in a shootout Sunday at the United Center. The Bruins (30-15-2) held a 2-1 lead thanks to a pair of goals by Brad Marchand (scoreless in the Final last season), but Tuukka Rask (35 saves) gave up a soft goal to Brandon Bollig to tie it at two later in the second period. From there, Corey Crawford (34 saves) kept the B’s off the scoresheet after that and made two saves in the shootout with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane beating Rask.
Start saving up your money for Round 2: Thursday, March 27 at TD Garden. This one was exciting from the start as Marian Hossa took advantage of a rare mistake by his fellow Slovakian Zdeno Chara. Boston’s captain was caught up ice after an offensive rush and Chicago made them pay with a one-timer by Hossa from Sharp 4:13 into the game. Reilly Smith’s breakaway was stopped by Crawford but Marchand put one by him with 19 seconds left in the first.
Marchand didn’t wait long to add to his stats as he had a breakaway and pretty move to make it 2-1 Bruins 50 seconds into the second period. Toews was called for unsportsmanlike conduct (a 10-minute penalty) on a bizarre play: his stick snapped when he tried to take a shot so he harmlessly tossed the butt end into the stands.
Boston didn’t get a power play but it still couldn’t take advantage of Chicago playing half a period without its outstanding captain.
Shortly after Adam McQuaid hit the post, Bollig tied it from a bad angle that Rask couldn’t squeeze against the near side post. Kane had a glorious chance that hit the side of the net in the second and Campbell matched it in OT with a shot that somehow missed on a 2-on-1.
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What they'll be saying: We said this during the Final but we’ll repeat it: Bruins-Blackhawks is a dream matchup for the NHL. Only good things could come from a rematch in the Final of these two Original 6 rivals. Anaheim is having an incredible season too but who would bet against the Blackhawks winning the stacked Western Conference again?
Just like in the Final, Crawford got the best of the more acclaimed Rask. The weird part is that 10 Blackhawks are going to Sochi yet their goaltender won’t be part of Team Canada. Crawford will probably never be considered elite but he’s solid and dependable which is more than you can say about Roberto Luongo who will be in Russia.
Marchand’s struggles early in the season are long forgotten since he’s scored a goal or more in three straight games. With 14 goals, he is now only one behind team leader Reilly Smith. When Marchand is playing well and pissing off opponents, that’s when the Bruins are at their best. NBC’s Pierre McGuire mentioned during the broadcast that Marchand wanted to play better so that linemate Patrice Bergeron would get another invite from Team Canada. That sounds a little too convenient, but we’ll go with it.
Tough turnaround for the B’s as they host the Kings Monday afternoon (3, NESN). LA rolled, 4-2, over Boston in game two of that California road trip on Jan. 9. Bet on Rask getting another start even in the back-to-back since then Boston is off until Saturday.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate