Axelsson unlikely shootout hero for Bruins

Author:
Publish date:

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- With a chance for his team to end its losing

ways in shootouts, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien put their

fate in the hands of possibly the most unlikeliest of players.

P.J. Axelsson scored the decisive goal in the third round of the

shootout, lifting the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago

Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Without a goal in 12 games this season - including Wednesday's

contest - and unsuccessful on three career shootout attempts,

Axelsson got the call from Julien over the likes of Marc Savard,

Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm. The veteran Swede made it the

correct decision, deking goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and

lifting a backhander into the right side of the net.

"I was lucky because he got a piece of it, and I think it just

got in," Axelsson said. "I didn't really have a move planned."

"The guys I put in the shootout were guys who have been hot when

we practice it," Julien said. "They earned it. It was not just

a crap shoot."

Axelsson admitted he was surprised when he was selected to

participate in the bonus format.

"I think I shot in the shootout once before, when we needed 14

shooters or something like that," Axelsson joked. "It was

against the (New York) Rangers, I think."

Sturm scored a power-play goal in regulation and Tim Thomas made

31 saves for the Bruins, who extended their winning streak to

four games and halted a seven-game slide in shootouts.

"This game was about two young teams with a lot of energy and

potential," Julien said. 'Both teams played great, and having

it all come down to a shootout was a sign of what this game was

all about."

Captain Jonathan Toews tallied with the man advantage and

Khabibulin turned aside 38 shots for Chicago, which had its

four-game winning streak snapped.

"Give Boston credit - they check well and play a strong team

game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "This was a good

test for us. We'll take the point but would have preferred

two."

Before the game, the Blackhawks retired uniform No. 3 in honor

of defensemen Pierre Pilote and the late Keith Magnuson.

After a stellar performance in overtime by Khabibulin, who made

eight saves - including several of the spectacular variety - and

helped successfully kill a penalty, and a failed penalty-shot

attempt by Patrick Sharp, the game went to a shootout. Boston

had lost its last four games that went to the bonus format last

season and dropped its first three shootout contests this

campaign.

But after Thomas knocked away Toews' first-round shot with his

glove, rookie Blake Wheeler gave the Bruins the edge by tucking

the puck under Khabibulin's left pad after the netminder

sprawled to the ice in an unsuccessful attempt at a poke-check.

"We've been practicing the shootout at the end of practice,"

Wheeler said. "We've lost three of them this year, so we needed

to get better at it.

"The move is what I always do. I had no scouting report on

Khabibulin. Just did what I was comfortable with and was lucky

to get him down when he bit on the shot, and I got around him."

Patrick Kane evened things in the second round, firing the puck

between the pads of Thomas, and Khabibulin denied Phil Kessel,

who made a similar attempt.

"Toews' shot went right in front of me," Thomas said. "Kane's

shot I really didn't see."

Thomas blocked Dave Bolland's wrist shot with his left pad,

setting the stage for Axelsson's heroics.

Bolland also was a surprising choice by Quenneville, who chose

not to use Sharp or Martin Havlat instead.

"He has earned it," Quenneville said of Bolland. "He's been one

of our last guys standing when we practice it."

Following a scoreless first period, Sturm gave Boston the lead

with time winding down in the second. With Chicago defenseman

Aaron Johnson serving a roughing penalty, Bruins captain Zdeno

Chara fired the puck toward the net from the right faceoff dot,

and Sturm tipped it past Khabibulin from the doorstep with 54

seconds remaining in the session for his fourth goal of the

season.

The Blackhawks answered with a power-play goal of their own

midway through the third. Stationed in front of the net, Toews

redirected Kane's shot from the right circle by Thomas at 9:10,

knotting the contest at 1-1.

Sturm believed he put the Bruins ahead with 9:12 remaining in

the period, but his goal was disallowed after Wheeler was ruled

to have interfered with Khabibulin while standing in the crease.

No penalty was called on the play, however.

Khabibulin kept alive Chicago's chances in overtime, making a

number of save on point-blank shots. The Russian turned aside a

one-timer from the right faceoff circle by defenseman Dennis

Wideman with 2:28 remaining in the extra session, then snagged

Savard's shot off the rebound from alone on the right side with

his glove.

"I felt good out there," Khabibulin said. "Guys played good in

front of me and worked hard. That is all you can ask."

Sharp was awarded a penalty shot at 2:44 of overtime after being

tripped up from behind by Boston defenseman Aaron Ward. But

Thomas was up to the task, using his stick to prevent Sharp from

firing the puck between his pads.

After losing their first two games of the season in regulation,

the Blackhawks have earned at least one point in 11 of their

last 12 contests (7-1-4).

Both teams went 1-for-7 on the power play. Kane questioned

Chicago's approach with the man advantage.

"I don't think we knew what we were doing out there tonight,"

the 2008 Calder Trophy winner said. "They just left us on the

perimeter and we never pressured the goalie. We needed to put

shots on the net."

TOP HEADLINES

Owen Power
Play

Owen Power Back to Michigan? It Wouldn't Hurt

He's the best prospect in the 2021 Draft but if the defenseman returns to college for another season, there would be definite benefits.

USATSI_16227098
Play

A Tiered List of Dougie Hamilton Sign-and-Trade Suitors

The Hurricanes have given their star defenseman permission to speak with other teams leading up to free agency. Who will join the feeding frenzy and make a play for Hamilton?

unnamed
Play

Blooming Belarusians: Staking a Claim in International Hockey

In an attempt to hang with the heavyweights, Belarus established a development program akin to the U.S. NTDP. A decade later, it's starting to bear fruit.