Bruins find finish
Seguin goal wins it in the shootout
CHICAGO - One win doesn’t right all wrongs, but last night it sure had a way of shortening some of the long faces in the Boston dressing room. Paced by Nathan Horton’s third-period goal that gave them a 2-2 tie, and then Tyler Seguin’s goal in the shootout, the Bruins last night squeezed by the Blackhawks, 3-2, for only their second win of the season.
“We needed it bad,’’ said goalie Tim Thomas, who shut down sharpshooters Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and fellow ex-Vermont star Patrick Sharp in the shootout. “After starting out 1-3 this year, it’s a big difference to be 2-3 and not 1-4. We’ve got to start building on something, and let’s hope this was it.’’
For the first time this season, and for the first time since salting away the Stanley Cup on June 15 in Vancouver, the Bruins by the third period began to play with some pluck, confidence and a touch of finish. Johnny Boychuk made a brilliant move to set up Horton’s goal with 7:56 gone in the third, and Seguin, after watching Rich Peverley misfire in overtime with a doorstep backhander at the end of a breakaway, rushed in on the shootout and ripped a sizzling, deliberate forehander between the pads of goalie Corey Crawford.
Confident teams make quick reads, detect ways to exploit vulnerabilities, then act on them. Such was the case on the Horton goal and ditto for Seguin’s winner. Small opportunities spotted, plays made, a game won before a full house of 22,073 at the United Center.
On the tying goal, Boston’s second of the night, an alert Boychuk fired the puck to the Chicago end as he approached the offensive blue line. Rather than pull up and hope for a forward to retrieve it, Boychuk went into overdrive and zipped by defenseman Duncan Keith in a race to the rear wall. He regained possession, dashed to the back of the net, then tossed out from behind the goal line for Horton to mash in a forehander from the left-wing circle.
“At first, I thought a forward was going to go,’’ noted Boychuk. “Then I saw I was going to beat him so I went and got it.’’
“It was all Johnny on that one,’’ added Horton, who cashed in his first goal of the season on the velvety dish. “You can see he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I mean, that play wouldn’t happen if he doesn’t get it deep and go get it.’’
Seguin, having seen Peverley just miss winning it with his backhander, watched the replay of the failed attempt before the shootout began. Seguin often opts for backhanders on shootout attempts, but given that Crawford had just seen it from Peverley, said the sophomore center/wing, he opted out of any sleight-of-hand antics. He decided to go right down Broadway, feet moving, and snap off the short-range wrist.
“Usually I’ll go with a deke there,’’ said Seguin. “I just thought I’d try something different, go five-hole, and lucky it worked out.’’
Peverley had two prime chances to end it in the five-minute overtime, the best coming 2:34 left when he walked in all alone from the blue line and misfired with a backhander that he launched from the top of the crease. Only 18 seconds earlier, he couldn’t beat Crawford with a sizzling wrister he snapped to the top right corner.
It was all part of a night when the Bruins played better in the end than they did at the start. Their game built, in lockstep with their confidence, leaving coach Claude Julien feeling the best he’s felt thus far after a game this season.
“By the third period,’’ he said, “I thought we looked more and more like our team. We had some hesitation again in our game early, but eventually that faded away. We were moving the puck up quickly and we were closing on them quickly, too.’’
Andrew Ference spoon-fed the Hawks the 1-0 lead with 3:39 to go in the first period, the veteran defenseman caught trying to force a pass through the neutral zone that Bryan Bickell easily intercepted. Bickell took off alone from the Boston blue line, with Ference desperately trying to catch up, and the 6-foot-4-inch winger finished off with a short-range wrister by Thomas from the slot.
The Bruins pulled even for a very short spell in the second when, with Horton off for goaltender interference, Chris Kelly potted a shorthander for the 1-1 equalizer at 1:33. Ference started the puck up the right side in his own zone, springing Peverley up the right wall for the two-on-one break against Keith. With Kelly breaking through the slot, Peverley perfectly timed a centering pass and Kelly closed the deal against Crawford.
“Great pass by Pevs,’’ said Kelly, “and I just happened to put it in. That’s a great team win. I thought we played extremely well, and we got better through the night.’’
But it was only 1:18 later when Patrick Kane, with help from Sharp and ex-Bruin Sean O’Donnell, ripped home the go-ahead goal, 2-1, with a quick snipe from the left-wing faceoff circle. The goal gave Kane his sixth point (2-4-6) in four games this season, in which he has moved to center after spending his first four seasons almost exclusively at right wing.
In the shootout, Thomas first snuffed out a Toews attempt, then Kane, following the Seguin strike, could not knock home a forehander. After Patrice Bergeron had the puck roll of his stick on his free attempt, Thomas locked the door on Sharp. Game over.
“They have a lot of weapons,’’ said Thomas, noting he played on the 2010 US Olympic team with Kane. “And, hey, I was with Sharp at Vermont, so there was a little bit of school pride on the line, tool.’’