CHICAGO – Boston’s Tim Thomas needed some help from P.J. Axelsson to win a goaltending duel with Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin.
Axelsson scored in the third round of the shootout to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory Wednesday night. He faked Khabibulin to the ice, then lifted in a backhand shot. “I’ve been working on it in practice,” Axelsson said. “I was a little lucky because he got a piece of it and it went in anyway.”
Blake Wheeler also scored in the shootout to help Boston run its winning streak to four games and spoil a big night for Chicago that began with the retirement of No. 3 in honour of Pierre Pilote and the late Keith Magnuson.
Patrick Kane had the lone shootout goal for Chicago. The Blackhawks’ winning streak was snapped at four, but they remained unbeaten in regulation at home (6-0-3).
Thomas made 31 saves, including an easy pad stop on Patrick Sharp’s penalty shot in overtime. He improved his NHL-best goals-against average to 1.76.
“We seem to get into a lot of exciting games,” Thomas said. “This certainly was one of them.”
Khabibulin made 38 saves and faced more tough chances than Thomas, especially in the second and third periods and through overtime.
“Nik was playing real good for us,” Kane said. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t score more for him. He stood on his head.”
The Bruins are 7-1-0 in their last eight games.
“I think the game was a reflection of the direction both organizations are heading in,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “There were a lot of shots and both goaltenders excelled at keeping the score low.”
Boston’s Marco Sturm and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews scored power-play goals in regulation. Sturm connected in the final minute of the second period, and Toews scored midway through the third.
“You’ve got to give Boston credit. They check well,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “This was a good test for us. We weren’t at our best, but we’ll take a point.”
The Blackhawks scored 21 goals in their previous four contests.
“The last few games we had won by three of four goals,” Quenneville said. “That doesn’t happen very often in this league.”
Chicago outshot Boston 18-6 in the scoreless first and forced Thomas to make several close-in saves. Khabibulin stopped Boston’s Chuck Kobasew on a short-handed breakaway midway through the period.
Khabibulin blocked Michael Ryder’s one-time shot from the slot with a quick pad save during a Bruins’ power play nine minutes into the second.
During another Bruins’ advantage, Khabibulin stopped Phil Kessel’s rebound attempt with seven minutes left in the second. About 30 seconds later, Ryder fired a shot from the slot off the post.
Sturm finally opened the scoring on the Bruins’ 20th shot, deflecting in a power-play goal with 54 seconds left in the second. Standing just to the right of the crease, Sturm redirected Zdeno Chara’s feed from the right wing boards.
Toews tied it 1-1 with a power-play goal at 9:10 of the third on Chicago’s 30th shot. From the edge of the crease, he deflected in Kane’s shot.
An apparent Boston goal with 9:12 left in the third was disallowed when Wheeler interfered with Khabibulin in the crease.
Khabibulin made several spectacular saves in overtime, including stops on Marc Savard and David Krejci.
Thomas stopped Sharp’s penalty shot at 2:44 of overtime. Sharp was awarded the attempt after he was pulled down by Aaron Ward on a breakaway.
Notes: The No. 3 was the sixth retired by the Blackhawks. Among other numbers retired by Chicago is 18, worn by Denis Savard. Savard, who was fired as the Blackhawks’ coach on Oct. 16, was on the ice as part of the ceremony and received a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd of 22,092. … Chicago D Brent Sopel sat out his second game because of an undisclosed injury. … Bruins D Shane Hnidy missed his third game because of a lower-body injury.