Two nights after losing two three-goal leads in a disheartening 5-4 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins looked to turn their season around and perhaps, save the job of head coach Claude Julien, against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a sellout crowd of 17,565 at Boston’s TD Garden.
Those in attendance certainly got their money’s worth with a contest that brought back memories of when the two clubs met in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for Boston, it had the same ending as Game Six of that series when Chicago’s Dave Bolland scored a last-minute goal to win the game and the Cup. Fast-forward to 2017 and it would be Marian Hossa who would score the game-winner with 1:26 remaining in the third period to give the Blackhawks the win.
Blackhawks goaltender and Essex, Massachusetts native Scott Darling recorded 30 saves to become the first Chicago goaltender to post a shutout in a road game at Boston since Tony Esposito achieved the feat on January 17, 1970.
It was Darling’s second shutout of the season as he improved to 12-4-2 this year.
“I live out here in the summer, I have a lot of friends and family that were here tonight,” said Darling. “Obviously my dad, all the dads were there, so it was special for me.”
For the Bruins, who were also shut out in their previous home game versus the New York Islanders on January 16, 2017, the game marked the first time Boston had been shutout in consecutive home contests since October 23 and October 30, 2003.
“I thought we played pretty well against a good team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game. “We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there – we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”
The Bruins thoroughly out-skated and outplayed Chicago and put 17 shots on Darling but the netminder stopped every puck sent his way. His biggest save coming off the stick of Boston defenseman Joe Morrow. Morrow was sent on a partial breakaway and got off a hard wrist shot labeled for the low corner but Darling made the save.
At the other end of the ice, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped all six Chicago shots.
The second period saw both teams play tight-checking hockey but it had some moments of free-wheeling excitement. Every time Chicago’s superstar winger, Patrick Kane, touched the puck he put on a skating and stickhandling exhibition but Rask was up to the task of stopping last year’s NHL scoring champion on more than one occasion.
David Krejci had the best opportunities in the period for Boston.
He maneuvered into position at the side of Darling’s crease early in the period and got off two quick shots but the goaltender got his pad on both attempts.
With each goaltender playing “whatever you can do, I can do better,” the game remained scoreless after two periods. Boston held the advantage in shots 25-14.
The pace of the play and the intensity ramped itself up in the third period.
Chicago came out bound to gain the upper-hand and did so by unleashing the period’s first four shots. One of their best scoring chances came when Kane pulled off a spin-o-rama with the puck in the middle of the Boston zone before getting a sharp backhand shot off but, once again, Rask made the save and kept the Hawks off the scoreboard.
Rask also flashed the glove to snag Artem Anisimov’s wrist shot that appeared to be headed for the top corner with 4:08 to play in the period and the game continued in a scoreless tie.
The Bruins battled back with heavy offensive pressure that included a high wrister off Brad Marchand’s stick that was on its way for the top corner but Darling got his blocker on it.
The building was rocking at this point and fans and players alike were preparing for overtime but it was not to be.
Bruins forward Frank Vatrano attempted to carry the puck into the Chicago zone but had it poked off his stick by a Blackhawks’ defenseman. Chicago forward Vinnie Hinostroza gained control of the disc and turned the play toward the Bruins zone. He carried the puck left to right into the Bruins zone to the top of the face-off circle before handing it to linemate Tanner Kero. Kero went wide towards Rask then found Hossa with a seeing eye, cross-crease, pass. Hossa finished the play by one-timing the puck past Rask’s blocker and into the net for his 17th goal of the season 18:34 into the period.
“Well, I think that was a great combination,” Hossa said. “Vinnie (Hinostroza) passing to (Tanner) Kero and Kero just beckoned it to me, just a beautiful pass. I tried to go to the net and the puck hit me right on the stick – I tried to just shoot it as fast as possible and overall it was a nice goal.”
Watching Hossa score late in games is something his coach, Joel Quenneville, has become accustomed to seeing.
“Well, we’ll call him clutch,” Quenneville said. “The timing has been outstanding for him and for us. You know, I think that all year long, in that early part of the year we were winning a lot of games, and we were thinking okay we’re fortunate. And you can say we were again tonight, but you know, it goes to the net, great play at the net, finding a way to get through, but a lot of his goals have been right at that doorstep, which is a nice place to be.”
As for Torey Krug and the Bruins, the frustration was palpable in the team’s dressing room after the contest.
“We played well,” Krug said. “We had a great game plan going into it. We executed it well. Our guys played hard, and a couple mistakes, it ends up in the back of our net. You know, it’s one of those games where you’ve got to get that thing into overtime so that we can get the point and then move from there and try and win this thing.”
“It was probably fun to watch, but… I can’t keep saying it enough. I mean, you’ve got to get wins here. You’ve got to collect points, and I don’t really care if it’s fun for the fans or anyone to watch. We’ve got to start winning hockey games.”
The road does not get any easier for the Bruins when they return to action Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh versus the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (3:00 pm ET; NHLN, SN, ROOT, NESN, NHL.TV).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.