Memorable finish eludes Toews, Blackhawks at Winter Classic
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In a building that has seen so many storybook endings, so many iconic moments and so much rich history, it appeared another fantastic finish was about to unfold in the Winter Classic on Tuesday.
With 76,126 pairs of eyes bearing down on him and the Blackhawks trailing the Boston Bruins 3-2 with less than two minutes remaining, Jonathan Toews accepted a pass from Brandon Saad and unleased a low, sizzling wrist shot from about 40 feet away.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask lunged to his right but wasn't fast enough.
The puck was headed for the net.
The game was set to be tied.
The crowd poised to explode.
But cruel fate interceded, Toews' shot ended up clanking square off the left post and -- 95 seconds later -- the Hawks dropped their fifth outdoor game in six tries since 2009, this one a 4-2 setback to the Bruins. Brad Marchand added an empty-netter with 33 seconds to go.
"It sucks we couldn't get the win for our fans," Toews said. "It's a memorable moment for everybody and you want to leave the game feeling a little bit better than you are right now."
Said coach Jeremy Colliton: "It was a great atmosphere. Fun to hear the crowd and (to) play a hockey game in this venue is pretty special. Right this second I'm not enjoying it as much as I would like to.
"But overall I'm sure we'll look back on it with good memories."
No doubt about that.
From Connor Murphy touching the Play Like a Champion sign "about 10 times," to Brent Seabrook posing for photos with his three children at the Compton Family Ice Arena on Monday, to icons like Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Tony Esposito and Jill Mikita being honored before the game, this was truly an event to remember.
Once the game finally began, the Hawks were a bit on their heels as Boston came out firing and nearly scored in the opening minute. Cam Ward, however, was up to the task on a point-blank shot from David Krejci -- one of Ward's 32 saves on the afternoon.
After that, the Hawks settled in and took leads of 1-0 (on a Brendan Perlini goal) and 2-1 (on a Dominik Kahun goal).
The Bruins managed to tie things up on a Patrice Bergeron power-play goal with just 1:12 left in the second period.
"Thought we deserved better than 2-2 after two periods," Colliton said. "The game was still very much in the balance at that point. That's no excuse. We've got to find a way to win it in the third."
The third was ugly for the Hawks, though, mainly because of a high-sticking penalty by Patrick Kane at 1:03, a tripping penalty by Artem Anisimov at 1:42 and a hooking penalty on Gustav Forsling at 4:56. Those first two infractions meant Boston skated 5-on-3 for 73 seconds, but the Hawks stood strong and managed to keep the game deadlocked at 2-2.
At that point, Colliton figured his team would get a big momentum boost, but that never occurred.
Said Colliton: "You feel like, 'OK, we came through this. And we're going to get some energy out it.' But that's the stretch where we were at our worst -- those four (or) five minutes … (after) we got to even strength, we just couldn't get playing again.
"They scored before we could get it turned around."
That goal came off the stick of Sean Kuraly with 9:40 remaining.
The Hawks made a few pushes in the waning moments, but failed to find the equalizer and fell to 15-21-6 on the season. Boston, which got 36 saves from Rask, improved to 22-14-4.
"I think our confidence is building," Toews said. "We're getting to a point where we really know what works for us and what makes things difficult for other teams. It's just finding that consistency, finding that maturity to play the right way at the right times.
"The more we keep ourselves in games, the more we're going to have chances to take over and get two points."
So while the story didn't turn out the way they wanted, there's no doubt all of the Hawks will remember this day for the rest of their lives.
"It's unfortunate, but it is a special opportunity to play in this building," Toews said. "I think it even exceeded my expectations. Just so much excitement to be out there and start that game.
"We all really enjoyed it."