Boston Bruins

Blackhawks feeling robbed after officials admit to game-changing 'mistake'

Blackhawks feeling robbed after officials admit to game-changing 'mistake'

It's been a while since the Blackhawks last played a regular season game at the United Center that had playoff-type vibes. Wednesday was exactly that.

National television. Original Six matchup. Superstars on both sides. One team fighting for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The other battling for a playoff berth. The intensity was high.

And it got much higher in the third period.

The story of the game for the Blackhawks was supposed to be how they responded from a sluggish effort in Minnesota 24 hours earlier. Instead, the Blackhawks and the entire city of Chicago are having a difficult time getting over some questionable officiating late in the game that didn't go in their favor and robbed them of a potential extra point that could have serious implications in the standings at the end of the season.

With 1:05 left in the third period of a 1-1 tie, Drake Caggiula scooped up the puck in the neutral zone from a falling down Olli Maatta, entered the offensive zone, and fired a snapshot past the right shoulder of Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The sold-out crowd of 21,472 erupted. So did the Blackhawks bench. 

Except it didn't count.

After Caggiula touched the puck, the officials blew the whistle but nobody in the arena heard. The call was a hand pass, although looking at the replay, it sure looked like Maatta got a piece of the puck on his stick blade that should've negated the hand pass.

The go-ahead goal was wiped out, the fans voiced their extreme displeasure and the Blackhawks were left feeling robbed after losing 2-1 in overtime.

"It's tough," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's disappointing. But there will be another night where we come out on the other end of it. These things have a way of evening out. But it's just disappointing because it would've been a big two points for our team."

After the game, Jonathan Toews said the referees admitted to the team that they made a "mistake." The NHL has not yet commented with an official statement.

"They made a mistake, blew the whistle," Colliton said. "Not much you can say after that. It's done."

It wasn't the only call the Blackhawks were unhappy about.

Zack Smith was sent to the box with 2:26 left in regulation for delivering an illegal check to the head on Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. Right off the faceoff, Patrice Bergeron cross-checked Ryan Carpenter in the face that went uncalled. And after giving the officials an ear full on his way to the bench, Carpenter was assessed a 10-minute misconduct and essentially thrown out of the game.

The Blackhawks were already playing shorthanded after Adam Boqvist suffered a right shoulder injury in the second period that isn't believed to be serious and were then forced to kill off a penalty against the second-ranked Bruins power play without one of their best penalty killers.

"He's not reacting for no reason," Toews said. "I'm not going to get into the officials. I think there's even the call on Smitty there. If it's a hit to the head, why is [Krug] not going to the quiet room? He's out there on the power play right now. At least they called the dive on [David] Pastrnak, thought that was another one there too. You get hit in the head, that's tough, you don't to see that, but there's a way you're supposed to deal with that."

It's an emotional game and the stakes were high. The Blackhawks have a right to feel the way they're feeling. They did their best to stay composed, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow.

"It is what it is," Toews said. "I think we can do a better job, myself especially, of not getting frustrated and focusing on the calls that go against us. It's going to happen. Just have to stay in the game."

The good news is, the Blackhawks didn't come away empty-handed. They've picked up at least a point in eight of their past nine games (6-1-2) and that's crucial at this time of year.

"All in all, that’s one of the best teams in the league there and we stuck with it," said Robin Lehner, who stopped 38 of 40 shots for a save percentage of .950. "We hung with them and it could have easily been us that had the win today. There’s definitely some growth."

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks seven-game winning streak comes to screeching halt in Boston

Four takeaways: Blackhawks seven-game winning streak comes to screeching halt in Boston

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Tuesday:

1. Early missed opportunity 

The Blackhawks started exactly how you want to on the road. They recorded the first four shots on goal, didn't allow the Bruins to get their first until the 5:01 mark, and went up 1-0 after Alex DeBrincat scored at 4:22. They were dictating the pace of play.

Then the Blackhawks were awarded back-to-back power plays, including a 5-on-3 opportunity for 49 seconds. But they failed to capitalize on it, and the big kill pumped life into the Bruins, who responded in a big way.

David Krejci, Danton Heinen and Brad Marchand each scored in a span of 4:12 towards the latter stages of the opening frame to go up 3-1, and the Blackhawks didn't record a shot on goal in the final 9:27. The final 10 minutes was a complete 180 from the first 10, and it changed the complexion of the game.

2. No Pastrnak? No problem

The Bruins announced on Tuesday morning that leading goal scorer and point getter David Pastrnak would be out at least two weeks after injuring his thumb in a fluke accident over the weekend. Second-year forward Heinen slid into his role on the top line, and the top-six forward group didn't skip a beat.

Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and Heinen combined for two goals and seven assists, while Jake DeBrusk (one goal, two assists) and Krejci (two goals, one assist) each had three-point outings. The Blackhawks simply had no answer for Boston's first two lines.

3. Too many penalties

After going down 3-1 at the end of the first period, the Blackhawks knew they were going to be playing catch-up all game. But it's hard to do that when you're playing shorthanded.

The Blackhawks committed six minor penalties, including five in a span of 15:29 in between the second and third periods, and it prevented them from generating any sort of momentum. The Bruins converted on two of those opportunities, the second of which made it 5-3 after the Blackhawks had pulled within a goal. And it proved to be the dagger.

4. Defensive breakdowns

The Blackhawks really struggled with their defensive zone coverage, and it was a particularly rough night for their second and third pairing defensemen. 

Gustav Forsling and Erik Gustafsson had a minus-15 shot attempt differential when they were on the ice at even strength, and were on the ice for only one scoring chance for and 12 against, according to naturalstattrick.com. Gustafsson did, however, score a power play goal for his 12th tally of the season, which is now tied for third among NHL defensemen.

Meanwhile, Carl Dahlstrom was on the ice for four of Boston's six goals — three at even strength — and Connor Murphy was on the ice for three of them — two at even strength. 

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were the only two defensemen with a positive scoring chances for percentage at even strength. Keith scored his second goal in six games, had a multi-point game and was on the ice for all three Blackhawks goals. Seabrook had six shot attempts (three on goal), three hits, three takeaways and three blocked shots.

Bruins dealt blow ahead of Blackhawks game after leading scorer injures himself in fluke accident

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USA TODAY

Bruins dealt blow ahead of Blackhawks game after leading scorer injures himself in fluke accident

The Blackhawks and Bruins are both going into Tuesday's game with a lot on the line. The former is riding a seven-game winning streak and looking to gain ground in the Western Conference wild card race while the latter is on a seven-game point streak (4-0-3) and trying to keep pace with Toronto for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

But the Bruins were dealt a tough blow on game day after it was announced leading scorer David Pastrnak underwent a procedure on his left thumb that will keep him out of the lineup for at least 2-3 weeks. The team revealed that Pastrnak and several of his teammates attended a sponsorship dinner on Sunday night, and at roughly 11:30 p.m., Pastrnak slipped while walking to his transportation and injured his thumb.

The good news for Boston is, Pastrnak's injury is not season-ending. The bad news is, the injury comes at a time where the Bruins are at the beginning of a stretch run trying to stave off the Canadiens, who are one point behind them in the standings. 

Bruins GM Don Sweeney told the media that this doesn't change the team's approach ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline, but perhaps this speeds up the process of trying to acquire a top-six right winger, which has been an area they've been looking to address even before the injury.

Pastrnak leads the Bruins with 31 goals and 66 points, and had a two-point outing (one goal, one assist) in the 2019 Winter Classic against the Blackhawks on Jan. 1. Second-year forward Danton Heinen, who has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 52 games this season, is expected to take Pastrnak's spot on the top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

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