Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron (R) and teammate Brad Marchand embrace after a goal. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
CHICAGO -- Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron understood the stakes as he waited for a faceoff against Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews with 7.5 seconds remaining in the third period Sunday afternoon.
Chicago had an extra attacker on the ice and needed Toews to win the draw to try to even the score.
"We've taken a few against each other," said Bergeron, a 13-year veteran. "I was trying to do something that would counter what he was trying to do. It's always huge battles and tough ones against him."
Bergeron won the faceoff, and the Bruins killed off the final seconds of regulation time to preserve a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks. Bergeron, Ryan Spooner and Kevan Miller each scored in the victory.
The outcome provided a critical boost for Boston (43-30-6), which leapfrogged the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators to move into second place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign.
"It's a huge win for us coming off back-to-back (games) in a tough place to play against a good team," Miller said. "Those are big points for us."
Artemi Panarin and Jordin Tootoo scored for the Blackhawks. Brent Seabrook notched two assists.
Chicago (50-22-7) lost in regulation for only the second time in the past 12 games. The Blackhawks already have locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
"It was an important game for them today," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We wanted to make sure we played the right way, and I don't think we gave up a ton, either. I thought we got better as the game went on."
Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin made 41 saves on 43 shots to improve to 7-5-1. Khudobin stopped several high-quality chances in the final 90 seconds as Chicago emptied its net for an extra attacker.
The 30-year-old backup netminder has won six straight decisions in relief of No. 1 starter Tuukka Rask.
"He's in there battling, working to find pucks, working to keep it out of the net -- whether he has to use his head, his pads, his body, his legs, whatever it is," Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said. "You just can't say enough. I think the guys responded to him. It's not that easy when you're not in there that often."
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford turned aside 26 of 29 shots in the loss.
Boston opened the scoring with 13:26 remaining in the first period. Defenseman Zdeno Chara flipped a fluttering shot from near the blue line that Spooner redirected into the net for his 12th goal.
A power-play goal by Bergeron late in the first period increased Boston's advantage to 2-0. Bergeron ripped a one-timer from the top of the right circle for his fourth goal in the past four games.
"The second one was huge," Cassidy said. "Great shot by 'Bergy,' really gave us a little bit of breathing room."
Chicago pulled within 2-1 after a bizarre sequence in the final two minutes of the second period. Blackhawks right winger Richard Panik slid partially into the net and scrunched into a turtle position to cover his face. Panarin fired a shot that hit Panik and ricocheted back to Panarin, who promptly elevated a second shot into the net for his 29th goal. Panik earned an assist on the play.
Boston made it 3-1 on a pinpoint wrist shot by Miller with 10:45 remaining in the third period. Miller seized the puck at center ice and maneuvered past the Blackhawks' defense for his third goal.
Twenty-five seconds later, Tootoo scored to cut Chicago's deficit to 3-2. Rookie John Hayden set up the goal with a pass to Tootoo in front of the net.
"(Hayden) is a great player," Tootoo said. "He's a big body out there. Our mentality as a fourth-line unit is to grind them down and hold onto the puck."
NOTES: Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane remained in the lineup despite taking a puck off his face during pregame warmups. Kane hunched forward and retreated to the dressing room after a teammate's shot bounced off the crossbar and struck him near the side of the net. ... Bruins RW Jimmy Hayes did not play after sustaining a lower-body injury Saturday against the Florida Panthers. Hayes was replaced by LW Sean Kuraly, whom the Bruins promoted from Providence of the AHL. ... Blackhawks C Vinnie Hinostroza was a healthy scratch for the second straight game despite his recent promotion from Rockford of the AHL. ... Bruins C Frank Vatrano missed his third consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. ... Chicago finished with a 26-10-5 record at home. The Blackhawks have three road games to end the regular season.