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Penguins vs. Blackhawks Recap: Rust breaks slump, but so too does Chicago

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Bryan Rust hat trick, it’s a Christmas miracle! But the Pens still lose

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

A return for the Penguins - Matt Cullen is back from IR. Garrett Wilson makes way as a healthy scratch.

1st period

Losers of eight straight games, the Blackhawks have fallen down 1-0 for 11 games in a row! Preposterous. It won’t be 12 though, as they take advantage of Casey DeSmith staying down and fire the puck past him to make it 1-0.

And quickly it becomes 2-0. DeSmith doesn’t cover a puck when he has the chance, instead batting it to the corner and his defense never recovers and gets pulled out of position. Brent Seabrook has space by the point and fires a slapper in from distance. 2-0.

Luckily though, the Pens respond and it’s Bryan Rust getting the monkey off his back for only his second goal of the season just 49 seconds later.

2-1 after one period. Pretty disappointing start considering almost every game recently Chicago has been down 2-0.

2nd period

The Pens are off to the game’s first power play when Olli Maatta is tripped. They get some decent zone time but can’t crack the league’s 30th ranked penalty kill.

But Pittsburgh does tie the game soon after, Derek Grant makes a great play to steal a puck and gets an open look at the net. Corey Crawford kicks out a big, juicy rebound right to Rust and whoa baby, second of the night for the formerly coldest player on the team. 2-2.

Jean-Sebastien Dea takes Pittsburgh’s first penalty with 4:54 left in the 2nd. No worries since Chicago has the worst power play in the league right? Not quite. Doesn’t take long for Chicago to re-take the lead when Alex DeBrincat goes past Maatta on the rush and roofs it. 3-2.

Cullen finds Rust all alone in front of the net but Crawford stones him from point-blank range.

However the next shift, Rust strikes AGAIN for his hat trick goal. A nice pass from Maatta hits Rust on the left side, it honestly looks like he’s just trying to center the puck but Seabrook’s stick is jutting out in such a way it’s a perfect tip...into his own net. 3-3 game.

Shots are 30-21 Pens after two periods.

3rd period

Early on Evgeni Malkin goes to the net for his seemingly typical minor penalty of the game, the Pens kill it off but 10 seconds later they’re a bit out of sorts with Jack Johnson and Marcus Pettersson both getting caught behind the net and Malkin and Crosby both on the ice not really picking anyone up, which is a problem with Marcus Kruger all alone in front of the net. 4-3.

Pittsburgh gets a call to get their second power play of the game soon after but again can’t get much going in a worse effort than their first attempt.

Crawford makes a couple saves on Phil Kessel and Tanner Pearson and that’s about the last best chance the Pens have. Jonathan Toews tacks on the empty netter. Then Brandon Saad puts on another for s’s and g’s, I suppose.

Some Thoughts

  • The special teams swing in the second period proved a big swing. The Pens didn’t score on their power play. Chicago did. Both of those events are against percentages but that’s why they play and don’t go off what’s on paper.
  • Amusing item to me: a player on the Pens’ (Matt Cullen, born November 1976) is almost a decade older than Chicago’s new head coach (Jeremy Colliton, born January 1985). You don’t see that every game.
  • Weird how the puck just seems to follow certain guys around on certain nights. After hitting so many posts, missing empty net looks, 30 shots on goal stopped in the last 21 games — finally it was the night for Bryan Rust to get some good luck and a well-earned boost of confidence.
  • 4th hat trick in the last nine games for the Pens. No one could have guessed from which player though before-hand.
  • Cullen looked pretty good in his first game back, a bit of jump in his step and he generated his own shot in the 3rd period which wasn’t something he’s done much of this season.
  • This game didn’t go to overtime but Kris Letang played 29:39 of it. Good grief. The Pens were chasing the game but they probably don’t need to run him into the ground like that. 7 shots on goal and 5 hits in again a strong effort.
  • 43 shots for the Pens, and until the final desperate flurry, Sidney Crosby didn’t have even a shot attempt that was wide of the net or blocked.
  • Disappointing loss, Pittsburgh just kind of floated around. Last night Chicago was outshot 14-0 in the early stages against the Jets. They were better than that tonight, but they’re still a bad team. The Pens just played down to their level.

A road trip ends 1-1-1, however the games won’t subside. Pittsburgh is back at it this weekend with home games Friday and Saturday night.