Hawks' offense sputters in loss to Bruins

Kris Versteeg and the Hawks were unable to figure out Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

BOSTON – The Chicago Blackhawks ran into a red-hot team Thursday night and found themselves shut out for the second time this week.

The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors, either.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask collected his seventh shutout of the season, making 28 saves, as Boston claimed the second leg of the season series in a matchup of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists at the TD Garden.

The Bruins are now 13-0-1 in their past 14 games, with their 12-game winning streak having just come to an end in a shootout against Montreal earlier in the week. And, while the Hawks got the start they needed to come away with a road victory, the counterpunch wasn’t there.

“Yeah, it was a perfect start, then it slowed down to a crawl,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “The way we saw it, we were easy to play against. We had some chances in the third, but I thought we were not very good tonight.”

He continued, “I didn’t like the push from behind. It wasn’t hard enough or sustained enough.”

Boston emerged with a 1-0 lead at the first intermission on a Patrice Bergeron tip-in goal despite being hemmed in its own end for a good portion of the first half of the period. Even after controlling early play, Chicago was outshot 10-8 in the first.

The Hawks were unable to muster any measure of a sustained offensive zone presence during the second period and, after Boston struck for a pair of insurance goals within 13 seconds of each other in the third, the damage was all but done.

Even with their two power-play chances against the Bruins, the Hawks failed to register a pulse.

“We had our chances at the start of the game to take the lead, but they found a way to get one,” said Kris Versteeg. “I’ve played against them a lot in the last couple of years. They’re a tough team to come back on when they have the lead, especially in this building, they get really energized. We just couldn’t find much out there; they did a great job.”

At a juncture of the season when points become increasingly precious, the Hawks also fell eight behind first-place St. Louis in the Central Division race. They can also feel Colorado breathing down their necks, as the Avalanche won Thursday to pull within a point of the defending Cup-holders for second in the division.

“It’s a little disappointing, especially the way we played,” Patrick Sharp said. “The last couple games lately, I thought we played really well -- a few times in the last couple weeks.”

The good news from an otherwise listless evening of hockey was that the Hawks will be right back it in Ottawa on Friday night.

Chicago is 11-1-3 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

“We can forget this and we’ll do our best to apply all the things that we didn’t do,” Sharp said.

As the Hawks' equipment managers shuffled about cleaning up the visitors’ room before hitting the road for a quick turnaround, Sharp was asked about his title memories staged in the same room of the same building less than a year ago.

“It felt like it was a long time ago.”