CHICAGO – Jonathan Toews showed Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman why he’d be a pretty good Olympian – especially if games are decided by shootouts.
Toews scored once in regulation and again in the shootout, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-4 victory over the Boston Bruins.
Toews, who is 10-for-18 on career shootout attempts, said he didn’t even know Yzerman was at the United Center scouting players for the Winter Games, which will take place in Vancouver in February.
“Every time I’ve had a chance to play for Team Canada … it’s been an incredible rush knowing millions of people across your country are watching,” said Toews, who already has helped win three international gold medals.
“It’s been an honour so far to just be mentioned. But really, our priority is with our team right now. This season’s been going well,” Toews said. “I’ve been slowly getting better and taking on more and more responsibility.”
The Blackhawks are 14-3-1 since Toews, their 21-year-old captain, returned Nov. 9 after missing six games with a concussion.
Of his shootout success, he said: “I’ve got a couple moves that have been working. I’m trying to use those while they last before anybody can figure them out.”
Despite blowing three one-goal leads and having its shutout streak snapped at 150 minutes, 43 seconds, Chicago improved its NHL-best home record to 15-3-1 while playing before its largest crowd this season (21,717). At 22-8-3, the Blackhawks are off to their best start in 27 years.
Patrick Kane scored the shootout clincher and Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd had regulation goals for the Blackhawks, who defeated Boston for the first time in almost six years. They had been 0-4-1 against the Bruins in that span.
Tim Thomas made 40 saves, many of them acrobatic stops, but couldn’t prevent the Bruins from losing their third straight game. David Krejci scored twice for Boston, including the goal that forced overtime with 2:43 left in regulation.
“They’re one of the top teams, if not the top team, in the NHL right now,” Thomas said. “We showed some guts coming back and tying it up.”
Thomas, who couldn’t be faulted on any of Chicago’s regulation goals, said his timing was off during the shootout.
“Sometimes that’s the way it is,” he said. “Your timing is on for a game (but it is) screwed up for the shootout, or vice versa.”
Chicago goalie Antti Niemi, who had allowed only one goal in his previous three starts, wasn’t as sharp this time. Still, he stopped Patrice Bergeron’s attempt to start the shootout.
Toews then beat Thomas low to the stick side. After Blake Wheeler hit the post to Niemi’s left, Kane stuffed a backhand shot past Thomas to give the Blackhawks their eighth shootout or overtime victory this year, tied for most in the NHL.
Friday’s quick shootout outcome was the antithesis of several of Chicago’s multiple-round outings earlier in the year.
“This one was a lot easier on our tickers,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
Chicago had recorded consecutive shutouts and hadn’t allowed a goal in exactly a week before Krejci beat Niemi 9:22 into the game on a nice pass from Wheeler.
Poor second-period defence by the Bruins gave Thomas no chance on point-blank shots by Versteeg and Sharp.
Daniel Paille made it 2-2 at 16:32 of the second. Toews then scored with 26.6 seconds left in the period as he stood alone in front of the net and hacked at the puck until it went past Thomas.
Boston’s Johnny Boychuck and Chicago’s Andrew Ladd traded third-period goals before Krejci scored on a rebound to tie it 4-all.
Mark Recchi had two assists for the Bruins and leads all active players with 1,461 points and 909 assists.
Notes: Blackhawks D Nicklas Hjalmarsson was ill and missed the game. He was replaced by Jordan Hendry. … While Bruins D Zdeno Chara played his 800th career game, teammate Andy Wozniewski made his Bruin debut in place of injured D Dennis Wideman.