CHICAGO - The Bruins left Chicago a confident team.
After a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center on Sunday afternoon, Patrice Bergeron and his teammates were headed back to Boston with yet another important set of two points.
The flight was sure to be a happy one -one filled with smiles, as David Backes likes to say.
The Black & Gold are now on their longest win streak of the season, at five consecutive victories. With a 5-2 win over Florida on Saturday, and the 3-2 win in Chicago, the Bruins picked up four points in less than 24 hours.
"I think it gives us a lot of confidence," said Bergeron. "It wasn't an easy schedule, by any means. You know, coming here, traveling under 24 hours and playing a tough team like the Blackhawks at home. I thought we showed a lot of character this afternoon and we definitely have to build from that moving forward."
Bergeron played a key role at the end of the game, winning three straight defensive zone draws against Jonathan Toews when the Blackhawks had an extra attacker on. Though the Bruins couldn't get the puck out of the zone during that span, they stayed strong until the final buzzer.
"He's obviously really good, have a lot of respect for him, but at the same time, it's always a battle when you're up against a guy like him and everyone did a good job picking and finding that puck," said Bergeron. "We would have liked to get it out when we get those wins, but we stuck with it, and Anton made some really big saves for us as well."
Anton Khudobin battled till the very end, sprawling out on his stomach to cover the puck with 7.1 left on the clock. He ended the afternoon with 41 saves.
"He was huge," Bergeron said of Khudobin. "They're a good team, they're going to get some good looks, and they certainly did."
"I thought also we did a good job, tried to deny their speed in the neutral zone as much as possible. It's going to happen that they're going to get some breaks, but he was huge when we needed him, and we needed him a few times tonight on a big saves, and he was there."
Video: BOS@CHI: Khudobin makes an amazing acrobatic save
Khudobin got into a rhythm early on in the game. He stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first period, allowing the Bruins to take a 2-0 lead into the second. Some of his best work came during a 4-on-4.
"I was nervous a little bit at the start, because back-to-back, no pregame skate, and didn't play for a week, so I was nervous, but the guys did a hell of a job, they boxed out and I was able to see the puck and I was relaxed after," said Khudobin.
"I just tried to talk to myself, pretty much, and say, 'Hey, whatever happens, happens,'" Khudobin told himself early on. "I know it's tough, but they are a really good team, so whatever happens, it happens, so I kind of just let it be and focus on next shot, and next shot, and next shot, and next play, and if it's going to be my game, then it's going to be my game."
It turned out to be his game.
The win marked Khuobin's sixth straight win between the pipes, tying his career-best streak, and the first of his career against Chicago.
"Hockey is a fun game, so for me, when you're facing a team like this and it's my second start over my five years in the NHL against them, so I was kind of excited and it as pretty fun," said Khudobin.
The Bruins got off to a strong start, with Ryan Spooner making it 1-0 at 6:34 into the first.
After a D-to-D pass from Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara knuckled a shot on goal from the left point that Spooner tipped from the hashmarks for his 12th goal of the season.
The goal marked Spooner's first goal since March 4, and his first in 11 games.
Bergeron put Boston up 2-0 with his 21st goal of the season at 1:03 left in the first period. Brad Marchand teed him up with a perfect feed from the half wall.
The goal was marked down as a power-play tally, as it came one second after Zdeno Chara's roughing penalty expired. Boston was about to head on a brief 17-second man advantage. During the penalty kill for Chara, Dominic Moore raced up ice shorthanded and drew a trip on Duncan Keith, setting up 4-on-4 play and eventually, the power play.
Video: BOS@CHI: Bergeron beats Crawford short side
The early lead paid dividends.
"After the first goal, we kept putting pressure on them, and we got that second one and kept advancing during the game," said Bergeron. "We're expecting a push, especially from teams like Chicago, and I thought we stuck with it, and obviously having the lead definitely gave us confidence to keep playing that same way."
Chicago got on the board with 1:48 to go in the second period. Brent Seabrook's shot caromed off the end boards and right to Artemi Panarin. Richard Panik had ended up in the net hunched over, so Panarin's first shot went off his teammate, and then he fired the rebound into the goal. It was a strange sequence, and Khudobin explained postgame that he was slow to react there, not knowing exactly what to do.
Boston kept the lead, and the penalty kill came up big when the Bruins had to kill off a delay of game penalty assessed to Colin Miller when his clearing attempt sailed into the stands.
A minute after the kill, Kevan Miller fired in a snipe top shelf on Crawford after carrying the puck into the zone.
"The win in general felt good," said Miller. "It's a huge win for us coming off a back-to-back in a tough place to play against a good team, so those are big points for us and we're happy with the win."
Video: BOS@CHI: K. Miller nets one from the circle
It was an important goal to put Boston up 3-1, as just 25 seconds later, Jordin Tootoo narrowed Chicago's deficit to 3-2 from the top of the crease.
"He was just showing off for everybody," Bruce Cassidy joked of Miller's snipe. "Hey, you need some of those goals. They got one from Tootoo, who doesn't normally get them, so good teams need them from all sources and it was good composure by him to have the presence of mind to pick his way through, and a good shot across the body. I think he surprised their goalie. It was a good goal."
The Bruins finished 21-14-6 on the road for the 2016-17 regular season.
They next host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at TD Garden, starting a string of three homes games to end the season against Tampa Bay, Ottawa (Thursday), and Washington (Saturday).
The win jumped them to second place in the Atlantic Division with 92 points. Toronto sits in third with 91 points (and two games in hand), while Ottawa is in the second Wild Card spot with 91 points (and two games in hand). Tampa Bay had 86 points heading into their game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
"It's one game at a time for us. We're going to enjoy [this win], trust me. It's been a long, hardworking week, but we've got to get ready for Tampa Bay on Tuesday," said Cassidy. "It's going to prepare us for the next game and how we need to play against good offensive teams. I think Tampa, even though they're missing some guys, they're pretty good offensively."
"We've got to make sure that some of the same formula as today comes through in terms of being hard on the puck."
Video: Bruins speak to media after 3-2 win over Chicago