CHICAGO – It was a situation the Boston Bruins had found themselves in before, and this time they were determined not to spoil an early lead by letting up too soon.
The Bruins kept the pedal to the floor at United Center on Sunday and defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 to end a frustrating five-game road trip and six-game losing streak.
Center Patrice Bergeron scored his 200th NHL goal and assisted on a power-play goal by defenseman Dougie Hamilton late in the second period, and the Bruins scored six goals in the first two periods on the way to their first win since Feb. 7 against the New York Islanders.
"Today was about being confident and showing your confidence," Boston coach Claude Julien. "We had a good first [period], but near the end our emotions started getting the better of us again and we had to settle our team down. That was the important part. Mentally we had to be strong and we had to stick with our game plan and not get rattled."
It didn’t seem like they’d pull it off after Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask slammed his goal stick against the left post when Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal with 1.4 seconds remaining in the first. Rask’s anger stemmed from his own delay-of-game penalty for playing the puck outside the trapezoid behind the net, which preceded the goal.
His stick clipped the elbow of Chicago forward Kris Versteeg on its way to the post, which prompted another penalty for slashing. The Blackhawks started the second period on the power play, which could’ve been another deflating swing of momentum for the Bruins during a disappointing trip. Instead, they gathered in the locker room at the first intermission and vowed not to let that happen.
It didn’t thanks to two penalty kills and four unanswered goals by forwards Milan Lucic, Gregory Campbell, Hamilton and Reilly Smith.
"We talked about it after the first, how we have to stay with our game and really put our focus on the way we were playing in the first," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "The road trip as a whole, we are not happy about it. We got four out of a possible 10 points, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. We’ve just got to make sure we bring the game we played today against Chicago into our next game at home and continue to do that."
The Blackhawks (35-20-5) have lost five of their first seven during a season-long, eight-game homestand (2-2-3). They have a game left against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and they know time is starting to run out with 22 games remaining.
Chicago has 75 points and sits third in the Central Division, but hopes of catching the St. Louis Blues and first-place Nashville Predators are starting to dim. They also know the Winnipeg Jets are still lurking not too far behind in fourth place.
"We definitely feel them breathing behind us," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "We know how important these games are too. We’ve got to bear down. When it goes good, it’s pretty easy to play and everybody’s happy, but when stuff starts to get the other way, that’s really when you show your true colors. We’ve got to bear down here. We’re going to regroup and have a better game against Florida."
Chicago forward Bryan Bickell scored the lone goal of the third period at 14:18 to complete the scoring. The Bruins had already dominated the game in the first 40 minutes and didn’t let off in the third.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 14 shots and was pulled at 12:19 of the second after Campbell scored with a wrist shot from the slot. Backup Antti Raanta allowed two goals in the final 2:33 of the period and finished the game, facing 16 shots.
The Bruins went 2-for-4 on the man advantage in a penalty-laden game.
Bergeron and Loui Eriksson scored the first two goals of the game in the first period. Bergeron reached his milestone when Marchand beat Bickell in the neutral zone to create a 3-on-2 situation. Smith spun and flipped a reverse pass to Bergeron, who tapped the puck between Crawford’s pads for a 1-0 lead 3:00 into the game.
"It's definitely a nice thing, something pretty cool I guess," Bergeron said. "I didn’t even know it, actually, that I was close to that milestone. It was people on the bench that told me and they got the puck [for me]. I never thought starting as an 18-year old I was going to score 200, so it’s definitely nice."
The feeling was the opposite in the Blackhawks locker room, which opened to reporters later than normal, possibly because of a postgame meeting of some sort.
"I think sometimes you see in these games, whether it’s not the start we want or some shifts that don’t go the right way, we can get negative and down on ourselves and that’s not the way we want to play," forward Patrick Kane said. "That’s not what is going to get [us] out of this. We’re at our best when we’re positive, you know, looking forward to our next shift and playing the right way."
Kane assisted on Toews’ goal for his 64th point to tie Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals for the League lead.