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Recap: Brett Sterling punches The Ticket, Pens lose in gimmick to Blackhawks 3-2

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Penguins vs Blackhawks coverage - Second City Hockey

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in cling mode right now.  So when they can come away with a point on the road against the defending Cup champs, especially after being down a goal in the third period, it's something you can live with.  So, all things considered, taking a point from the game against the Chicago Blackhawks is more than fine for today.

The game started out ominous for the the Pens; about ten minutes in Brooks Orpik got caught making an ill-advised pinch against Chicago's first line and they quickly counter-attacked and Jonathan Toews found Patrick Sharp who snapped a puck passed Marc-Andre Fleury.

In the second Orpik would atone for his mistake, with the Pens short-handed he made a great defensive play to stop the Chicago effort and Max Talbot collected the puck.  Talbot and Matt Cooke quickly turned it into a two-on-one and Talbot made a beautiful pass over a sprawling Blackhawks defender.  Cooke made no mistakes in the easy lay-in by Corey Crawford.

One minute into the third the game was seemingly swinging the 'Hawks way.  Bryan Bickell entered the Pittsburgh zone and flicked a relatively harmless looking shot towards the net.  It may have caught off Zbynek Michalek's stick or pads but it fluttered in just enough to somehow avoid Fleury's glove. 2-1 Blackhawks.

With three minutes left in the game, the Pens would salvage their point. A strong effort by Jordan Staal driving to the net (just as genius commentator Eddie Olczyk was talking about his lack off offensive abilty) and got the puck, goalie and defenseman all tangled together.  Brett Sterling collected that puck and buried it to tie the game.

In OT both teams had chances, most notably Tyler Kennedy on a power play with a yawning net, but his shot was too high.

The game was decided in a skills competition gimmick in which Patrick Kane beat Fleury and none of the Pens shooters could best Crawford.

A few more points on the game:

  • Another scary moment for Staal when in the OT, while screening the net, he caught a Kris Letang slapper in jaw/chin/cheek/neck area.  He obviously left the game and wouldn't return and it's unknown right now what the severity is.
  • Sterling continues to impress.  The diminutive forwards is up to five points in five games.  He's finding a way to contribute, for a team that badly needs anyone to step up.  This is turning into a perfect case of a player getting an opportunity and refusing to let go.  Sterling was nicknamed "The Ticket" (as in Wilkes-Barre's ticket to the Calder Cup finals), but at this rate, he may not be returning to the minor leagues this season.
  • The gaffe on the Bickell's goal is certainly blaring, but that shouldn't the rest of Fleury's performance.  Fleury nabbed 29 of 31 including several big time chances in the game's closing minutes.
  • The Pens brought their hitting sticks today. 50 for the team (compared to 31 for Chicago).  Every Pen except Paul Martin was credited with a hit, including call-up Tim Wallace who provided a staggeringly high hit-to-time played ratio of 5 in just 8:30.
  • On the flip side of that coin, the Pens got totally dominated in faceoffs, winning just 37%.  Staal, Max Talbot and Craig Adams, three of the Pens top expected guys, went just 19 for 52 (36.5%). 
  • Alex Goligoski: 0 shots all the way on goal, 5 of his shots blocked away and 1 more that missed the net.  With deluded forward skill the Pens simply need a better performance out of a guy who's capable of creating offense.
  • A shootout is a glorified skills competition and when your best options are amongst the likes of Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy, well, that's not a story that's going to end well.

In review, assuming Staal isn't badly hurt, today's game has to be considered a nice result for the Pens.  They couldn't pull out the two points for a victory, but given the bare bones roster in a tough building against a talented team?  Yeah, I'll take it.

Hold on now, five games this week, four more in the next six nights.  If the team can survive this week, they may be able to get through anything the schedule can throw at them in the future.