CHICAGO -- It didn't feel like just another game in the NHL's regular season.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins played a game on Sunday afternoon at United Center that had the feel of a Stanley Cup Playoff contest.
And in case anybody forgot how good the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was to watch, the combatants provided a nice reminder in the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout victory, which was secured by Patrick Kane in the third round of the breakaways contest.
"It definitely had that playoff flavor to the game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It had that intensity that was involved in our playoff series, which was as good a pace as I'd ever seen in a series. For a regular-season game, you could see that both teams had something at stake and wanted to prove they could win the hockey game. It was definitely a fast-played game."
It was also filled with things to keep viewers stuck to their seats.
There were great saves and plays at both ends all game long. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews picked up an unintentional misconduct infraction in the second period and sat in the penalty box for 10 minutes. There was even a bird fluttering around the arena, which eventually flew into the lens of a television camera.
None of the extra-curricular happenings trumped the game itself, which felt kind of like an extension of their memorable Cup series.
"I think there were moments throughout the game where it kind of felt like that a little bit," said Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford, who stopped 34 of 36 shots to earn his second straight win. "Obviously it wasn't the same thing up for grabs, but it was still a very important game for both sides and a game where it looked like both sides really wanted to get the win."
Kane used his patented "slow down" move to break a nine-attempt dry spell in shootouts, but the Blackhawks (32-8-11) also got a goal by Toews in the first round. The victory helped Chicago improve to 5-6 in shootouts and 5-11 in games that have gone past regulation.
Blackhawks forwards Marian Hossa and Brandon Bollig scored in regulation, while Brad Marchand beat Crawford twice in regulation and once in the shootout for the Bruins (30-15-3). Rask stopped 35 of 37 shots, with a number of his early saves preventing Chicago from opening a big lead, and two more against slap shots by Hossa in OT to kill off a power play.
"I think as a game, it was a great game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We had some chances that you wish you could've buried. Again, I guess it just continues to be the same as it was last year ... need overtime to resolve these games [between] us."
Three of the Cup Final games were decided in OT, including a three-overtime thriller to start the series. The Blackhawks won two and the Bruins were left to ponder some close plays that could've changed the outcomes.
As Julien said, it was more of the same this time around.
Boston nearly broke a 2-2 deadlock in the third off a wrist shot by Daniel Paille that snuck through Crawford's body and right arm, but the puck redirected wide after getting caught up in the tail of the goalie's jersey.
The Bruins also had a golden chance to end it in overtime after killing off the power play. A pass from Matt Bartkowski during a 2-on-1 rush hit the skate of diving Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and took a sharp turn, causing Gregory Campbell to whiff on a one-timer with a wide-open net in front of him.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara then dangled the puck around the perimeter with time running out before forcing Crawford to make one last save before the horn sounded to force the shootout.
"It was a great hockey game," said Quenneville, who moved into a tie for third all-time in NHL coaching victories (692) with Dick Irvin, who coached the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Blackhawks from 1929-1956. "I thought the pace was tremendous, started quick and it didn't stop. They're a dangerous team. They have all guys active and wanting the puck. It's a great test and it's nice to finally get a shootout win too."
The same is said about the Blackhawks, which made for the exciting matchup. It didn't take long for the pace to pick up near where it stopped last June.
The game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes on the goals by Hossa early and Marchand late, but that hardly tells the story of an entertaining first period. Boston had 12 shots on goal to Chicago's 15, and both goalies came up with outstanding saves to keep it close.
Both goals came as the result of great initial plays by the players who scored them.
First came Hossa's goal, his 20th and fifth in as many games, scored just 4:13 after the opening puck drop. He gave the Blackhawks the opening goal for the second game in a row by forcing a Bruins turnover in Chicago's defensive zone and then racing down the ice to chip a great saucer pass from Patrick Sharp past Rask.
Sharp's hustle play was just as impressive. Prior to making the pass, he turned on the afterburner to outrace the Boston defense and negate a potential icing call.
Rask and Crawford took it from there. Each made highlight-worthy stops to keep it a one-goal game until Marchand got Boston on the scoreboard at 19:41 with his 13th goal and first of the game.
Marchand started that scoring play by winning a puck battle along the boards in the neutral zone and kicking a pass to Patrice Bergeron headed up ice. Bergeron returned the puck with a perfect backhand pass for a rush into the offensive zone, which Marchand capped with a wrist shot from the right circle into the top corner of the net's far side.
"[My linemates] are both phenomenal passers and playmakers," Marchand said. "[Bergeron] made a couple of great plays there and I was on the receiving end of a couple great plays."
The second period was just as captivating.
Marchand and Bollig each scored to make it a 2-2 tie, but the period also saw Toews pick up that 10-minute misconduct penalty at 5:50 for tossing part of his broken stick over the glass. It was a violation of NHL Rule 53.4, which calls for a misconduct imposed on any player "who unintentionally or accidentally" throws his stick or any other equipment outside the playing area.
Chicago managed to get through Toews' infraction without allowing another goal and also got the equalizer from Bollig at 9:44, with the Blackhawks' top center still in the box. The gritty fourth-line forward scored his fifth goal by launching a shot on net from a sharp angle below the right circle. The puck hit Rask's left pad and skipped into the net, pleasantly surprising Blackhawks fans and causing Rask to shake his head in disbelief.
"I had the post covered, and I really don't know why it got through," Rask said. "I don't know how many times a game I've sealed the post and when that kind of goal happens it's just a tough break."