BOSTON – The Chicago Blackhawks lost captain Jonathan Toews to injury but kept their winning streak alive.
Blackhawks forward Ben Smith had one goal and one assist, and linemate Marcus Kruger had two assists for Chicago, which won its NHL-best eighth straight, a 3-2 victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
“It’s a solid team effort from top to bottom,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “[Some players are] certainly important to the lineup, but having said that, if someone goes down, our organization has great depth, and people can fit in and keep the ‘Hawk train rolling.”
Toews left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He was hit from behind into the end boards by Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg midway through the period.
“Yeah, he seemed all right,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. It looks like he’s going to be all right.”
The Blackhawks (20-8-1) managed to hold off the Bruins (15-13-1), who outshot Chicago 10-2 in the third. The Blackhawks did not have a shot on net for the final 12:20.
Goaltender Scott Darling made 32 saves in his third straight start for Chicago.
“He’s been excellent. Tonight he was excellent,” Quenneville said. “We like him; he looks big in the net, finds pucks, takes up a lot of space. So he certainly helps himself. Every time he’s been in the net, from training camp on, he’s been real consistent and real solid.”
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to the lineup after a 19-game absence because of a tear in his knee. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 18 saves for Boston, which has lost six of its past eight games.
“On most nights when we play like that, we usually come up with the win,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “And it’s just unfortunate. You look at those goals; they were turnovers that were our fault and being sloppy with the puck. You know it just seems like every time we make a mistake these days it ends up in the back of our net.
“So I think the lesson that we keep learning that we need to make strong, hard plays. You can’t take anything for granted no matter where you are on the ice. But I thought our compete level was there. We came out hard, had a bunch of chances, especially to start the second period there. We had a push there in the third period and almost tied the game.”
Blackhawks defenseman Klas Dahlbeck scored his first NHL goal at 9:10 of the first period to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Smith passed the puck from behind the net to the left dot, where Dahlbeck hit a one-timer past Rask inside the far post.
“Yeah I just saw Benny coming behind the net and looking up so I kind of got down a little bit, and then he made a great pass and I just shot it,” Dahlbeck said. “And I don't know if it went by the Boston guys stick but it went in, so it’s a great feeling.”
Chicago made it 2-0 when Smith scored off a rebound at 18:43. Daniel Carcillo’s shot went off Boston forward Seth Griffith and at Rask. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug tried to clear the rebound, but Smith intercepted the puck. Each of the goals was scored by Chicago’s fourth line.
“Yeah, they play the right way,” Quenneville said. “That line has a real good checking mentality, and they’re relentless on the puck. Klas gets his first one and Benny around the net. Some lines you look at, you think it’s a bonus when they score, but theirs it’s about ‘they’re due’ because they always start in their own end and end up in the offensive zone quite a lot on a lot of nights. Tonight they went in early, got a 2-0 lead with that group, certainly should put you in a good spot, and it did.”
Chicago extended its lead to 3-0 at 13:19 on a goal by Patrick Kane, who fanned on his shot twice before taking a wrist shot with Rask down.
Boston solved Darling at 18:37. Brad Marchand’s pass from behind the goal hit off the net and deflected to Reilly Smith in the slot for a shot that beat Darling high.
Krug trimmed the Chicago lead to 3-2 at 12:17 of the third period. Lucic made an end-to-end rush and fed Krug cutting to the slot for a one-timer.
Boston will stay at home to play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Chicago will try to win its ninth straight game at the New York Islanders.