The Blackhawks didn't have much on the line heading into Sunday's game.
They were already deemed best in the West on Saturday, when the Nashville Predators beat the Minnesota Wild. They'll have home ice throughout the conference playoffs. And while the Blackhawks almost pulled it out in the final 20 minutes, the visiting Boston Bruins, with more on the line, came away with this one.
Artemi Panarin scored his 29th goal of the season but Kevan Millar's third of the season proved to be the game winner as the Bruins beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday. The Blackhawks wrapped up their regular-season home schedule with a push in the third period but Anton Khudobin was stellar throughout to keep them from pulling off the comeback.
So did the Blackhawks, with nothing on the line entering this one, have a tough time getting motivated for it?
"Tough to forecast," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Early game for both teams, and important game for them. For us, we wanted to make sure we played the right way. We didn't give up a ton and got better as the game went on."
No doubt, the Blackhawks saved their best for the final 20 minutes. After Millar gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead midway through the third Jordin Tootoo scored his second of the season just 25 seconds later to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 3-2.
"We talked about all three of us going to the net, not being too pretty and getting some rebounds, some quick shots," said John Hayden, who had the primary assist on Tootoo's goal. "Fortunately that one worked out."
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But Khudobin wouldn't allow anything more, stopping 15 of the Blackhawks' 16 third-period shots. He stopped 41 of 43 for the game.
The Bruins took advantage of the Blackhawks' semi-sluggishness, staking themselves to a 2-0 lead (Ryan Spooner and Patrice Bergeron) by the end of the first.
Panarin's late second-period goal was an interesting one. His first attempt hit Richard Panik, who had slid into the net, but he would score on the second attempt.
"I just battled with the guy to the net. I got an elbow to the head, then I just heard we scored," said Panik. "I was just shaking off from the elbow. I didn't even know there was a shot coming."
The Blackhawks will have some decisions to make during their final three road games. They may rest players as the road trip wears on and may tinker with some lines to see what their postseason options are. Sunday's game was fine but considering how much the Blackhawks already had wrapped up entering it, it wasn't surprising it wasn't their best 60-minute effort.
"I think we had to come out hard. I think both teams were feeling each other out," Brent Seabrook said. "A couple of plays we could have been better on. That's it."