CHICAGO – It wasn't CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, but the only things missing were the theme song, Don Cherry's loud sport jacket and at least one Canadian-based team.
Otherwise, Saturday night's Original Six match-up between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins at the United Center was every bit as enticing -- especially for the 22,073 who watched it live inside the "Madhouse on Madison."
The game lived up to its billing all the way up to its conclusion with a 3-2 Bruins win after Tyler Seguin scored the lone goal in a shootout needed to decide it.
"It's always fun to play here," said Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who made 27 saves and all three in the shootout. "The national anthem singer is great. There's 22,000 fans and some arenas can't even hold that many. It's a fun atmosphere … an Original Six atmosphere."
It was also a meeting of the previous two Stanley Cup champs – who are both armed with dynamic young stars capable of keeping each team in Cup contention for years to come. The action was fast, the hitting was fierce and the goaltending was sharp at both ends.
Thomas just edged Chicago's Corey Crawford (35 saves) in the shootout by stopping Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and fellow University of Vermont alum Patrick Sharp. Seguin beat Crawford through the five-hole with a wrist shot after Thomas' stop on Toews and it was enough for the win.
It was also the first shootout goal that Crawford has ever allowed in the United Center, as he'd stopped each of the previous eight that he'd faced in the building.
Offensively, Bryan Bickell and Kane scored for the Blackhawks (2-1-1) -- while Chris Kelly and Nathan Horton potted goals for the Bruins (2-3-0), who picked up a much-needed win after coming into the game with two straight regulation losses.
They also came into the game with the same 1-3 start in their Cup defense that Chicago got off to a year ago, so there was more to this game than just an electric atmosphere on a Saturday night.
"I don't like shootouts," Thomas said. "They're no fun for me. I know they're fun for the fans, but sometimes it's important how they turn out and I think tonight might have been one of those nights – because we needed the win. We didn't need just the one point. We needed to win. We needed to feel good moving forward (and have) something to carry forward."
They got it by fighting back from a pair of one-goal deficits and controlling most of the action from the last half of the second period through the rest of the game. In fact, Boston nearly won it with two near misses late in the game – one in regulation and the other midway through overtime.
The chance late in regulation came off the stick of Dennis Seidenberg, who rung one off the right post. In overtime it was Rich Peverley on a breakaway missing the net after beating Crawford to the backhand.
A nice steal and pass by Milan Lucic set up the Peverley chance and it was fitting because turnovers played a major role in this game. In fact, turnovers led to each team's first goal and Bickell made the first happen for Chicago with an impressive individual effort late in the first.
After intercepting a cross-ice pass by Andrew Ference in the neutral zone, Bickell skated in alone on Thomas and beat him through the pads with a hard wrist shot from the slot to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. That's how it stayed until the second, but it didn’t take Boston long to knot it up – shorthanded to boot.
While killing Horton's goaltender interference penalty, Ference made up for his gaffe on the Bickell goal by blocking a shot from Brent Seabrook. The puck skipped into the neutral zone and set up a 2-on-1 rush for Boston that ended with Peverley finding Kelly for the tying goal just 1:33 into the second.
The Bruins also killed off the rest of the penalty, but couldn't keep the red-hot Kane off the score sheet. Just 27 seconds after Horton got out of the penalty box, Kane took a pass from Sean O'Donnell and beat Thomas with a wrister – again between the pads – from the left circle. It was Kane's second goal and sixth point in four games.
After that, however, the Bruins started taking control of the game while the Hawks began to crumble. They got a little careless with the puck and Horton eventually made them pay with his marker at 7:56 of the third. After a nice pass from behind the net by Johnny Boychuk, Horton snapped a shot past Crawford from the left circle.
"I think for whatever the reason, we didn't really play the way we wanted to in the third," Kane said. "It's tough to give up a goal, especially when you're up 2-1, but it kind of seemed like we were playing back a little bit and not really pushing the pace. When you get that one-goal lead, I know you don't want to cheat and push too much, but at the same time it would have been nice to make it 3-1. It seemed like we were throwing (the puck) away a lot. It was kind of a sloppy game on our part."
If it weren't for Crawford and some heads-up defense in front of him during the second, the Bruins could've tied it up even sooner -- and possibly gone ahead. A nifty blocked shot by Seabrook in the low slot during a Bruins' power play with 3:24 left in the second kept Patrice Bergeron from scoring and Crawford made a number of strong saves the rest of the way.
He faced 24 shots combined in the second, third and overtime but just wasn't able to top Thomas in the shootout.
"He was excellent," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He was big. (There was) a lot of traffic, a lot of tough shots through traffic, but he kept us in there. It was an amazing pace. That first period was the best period we've been involved in all year. Both teams were dangerous, both goalies had to be sharp in the first period and had to be sharp all game."