Even proponents of the shootout ending NHL games would be hard-pressed to support having it choose a winner between two even teams like the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks, as was the case on Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
After 65 minutes of frantic action, with both teams picking up where last year's epic Stanley Cup Finals left off, Patrick Kane ended the shootout with another slick move to give his Blackhawks a 3-2 win over the Bruins. Jonathan Toews had the other shootout score for the Hawks, while Brad Marchand tied the shootout in the third round prior to Kane ending it. Marchand had both goals for the Bruins, who were playing in just their fourth shootout of the season and first since November 21st against the St. Louis Blues.
Marian Hossa and Brandon Bollig found the back of the net for Chicago, who got 34 saves from Corey Crawford for the win. Tuukka Rask stopped 35 of the Blackhawks' 37 shots on goal for Boston, as both goalies were up to the test in an uptempo and back-and-forth matinee.
The Blackhawks got the scoring started just 4:13 into the first period on a great two-way play by Hossa. After Zdeno Chara's shot in the Chicago end was stopped by some nifty stick work by Hossa, the puck squirted free to be sent down the ice, leading to a 2-on-1 with Hossa and Patrick Sharp being defended by Kevan Miller (as Chara was behind the play). Sharp delayed his pass until Rask shifted to the left side of the net, finding Hossa for an open shot past the Bruins' goalie for a 1-0 lead. It is Hossa's 20th goal on the season, with Sharp notching his 25th assist of the year.
The Bruins struck with a goal in the last 20 seconds of the first period, and then in the first minute of the second period to erase the one-goal deficit and take the lead. Brad Marchand made a great play to guard the puck from two Chicago defenders, kicking it to an open Patrice Bergeron who then passed it back to Marchand for a quick shot past Crawford's right shoulder.
Marchand's 13th goal of the season tied the game at 1-1, while his 14th goal of the year gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead just 50 seconds into the second stanza. Johnny Boychuk banked the puck off the boards into center ice, which found its way to the stick of Reilly Smith. Smith sent a cross-ice pass to an open Marchand, who hesitated before going low past Crawford for his second goal of the day. Smith notched his 20th assist on the year, joining David Krejci as the only Bruins' players with 20+ assists this season.
The Blackhawks tied the game at 2-2 just before the halfway point of the second period, on a bad angle goal that Rask would love to have back. Duncan Keith took the puck from the top of the Bruins' end and wrapped it behind the net, with Marcus Kruger picking up the puck behind Rask's net. Kruger made a short pass to Brandon Bollig, who took a quick shot on Rask with virtually no angle. The shot surprised Rask, as it trickled off the pad of the Bruins' goalie into the back of the net for Bollig's fifth goal of the year. Keith now has 42 assists on the season, placing him third in the NHL behind Joe Thornton (46 assists) and Sidney Crosby (43 assists).
Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski took a silly crosschecking penalty with just four seconds left in regulation, and after the B's killed off the penalty in overtime, Bartkowski almost made the play to win it for Boston in OT. Bartkowski came out of the box and jumped into play, getting a quick 2-on-1 with Gregory Campbell. Bartkowski tried to make a pass to an open Campbell but the pass was slightly deflected by Duncan Keith before it got to Campbell, who whiffed on his one-timer attempt into an empty Blackhawks net.
Crawford was able to stop Ryan Spooner in the first round of the shootout, with Jonathan Toews giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Both Bergeron and Sharp came up empty handed in round 2, with Marchand and Kane ending the shootout in round 3.
The Bruins have a quick turnaround after this game, as they immediately traveled back to Boston to play the Los Angeles Kings on Monday afternoon. The Bruins lost to the Kings in Los Angeles 4-2 on January 9th.