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Pens/Blackhawks Recap: Pittsburgh blows lead and loses game, winning streak

All good things must come to an end, and tonight the Penguins’ 8 game win streak came to an end with a 5-3 loss to Chicago.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

The defensive shuffle continues with Juuso Riikola back tonight and Jamie Oleksiak back to the scratch list.

First period

The Blackhawks start a back-to-back today, which means they elect to play Cam Ward, who is not doing very well this year. He gives up a goal to Patric Hornqvist on Pittsburgh’s first shot on goal of the game just 2:43 into the game.

Then less than two minutes later, Ward stops the second shot from Kris Letang, but leaves a big juicy rebound for Jake Guentzel to punch home to make it 2-0.

Late in the period Evgeni Malkin takes an offensive-zone penalty and Chicago gets on the board. Patrick Kane makes a great cross-ice pass and Alex DeBrincat releases the puck quickly and fires it by Casey DeSmith to make it 2-1.

Then Chicago takes a penalty and another one soon after so it’s 1:11 of 5v3 time for the Pens at the tail end of the period. They don’t score on it and don’t really get that good of looks, disappointingly enough.

Second period

Chris Kunitz must have been inspired by the 2009 celebration, he’s playing like it’s 2009 and scores a goal - his first of the 2018-19 season to tie the game at two.

The Pens get it back, Phil Kessel makes a nice pass and it’s Derick Brassard dropping to a knee from a far angle, but he gets enough on the one-time shot to beat Ward with a pretty weak goal. Pens back up 3-2.

With the game going well, it’s time for another offensive zone penalty, this time with Tanner Pearson getting lax and bringing his stick in to trip an opponent for no real reason. Chicago strikes just after the penalty ends, with Duncan Keith getting his first goal of the season, firing a shot from the blueline the DeSmith probably should have gotten. 3-3.

Dominik Simon hits the post on a good look. Unlike last game it doesn’t go in off the post this time.

Shots are 16-14 Pens in the second period, and 28-21 Pittsburgh overall in the game after 40 minutes.

Third period

Letang went to the box late in the second period, the Pens start the third killing. Chicago scored a fourth goal similar to the last goal, as the Pens kill off their power play but then seconds later they get a goal. Dylan Strome this time getting a pass from Kane.

Next shift after Malkin winds up and...hits the post again.

The Pens get another power play but again fail to do much with it.

Game trickles along, Jonathan Toews scores on an empty net in the last minute to salt the loss away and break the Pens’ long winning streak.

Some thoughts

  • Tough one to lose after going up 2-0 just 4:33 in. The natural turning point may have been the extended 5v3 in the 1st period that failed — and that’s not wrong — but it was still a 3-3 game in the 3rd period. The Pens gave up a goal on the PK and two more just after PKs ended, so that was costly as well on the other side of the special teams equations.
  • Now 0 wins in the last 10 games against Chicago. Makes sense to lose to them in 2014 and 2015 but these days? Not so much.
  • Kane was one of the best players on the ice tonight. Liked the game from all of the Pens stars, but Kane made more plays with the puck than all of them.
  • DeSmith has been one of the better players (if not THE best player) in many games this season, but tonight wasn’t one. He didn’t have a chance on some of those, but letting Keith blow one by him as a guy who doesn’t score goals anymore isn’t a good look.
  • Really not sure how Cam Ward bounced back and pulled this one out. Looked like early on that he was going to have a brief night, but to his credit he found a way to shut the door in only giving up 1 goal in the last 55 minutes of the game. Wasn’t for a lack of good chances.
  • Interesting game by the Pearson-Brassard-Kessel line. On one hand, they do some good things out there, Brassard scored. They generated a fair amount of chances. Combined for 11 total shots on goal. On the other hand, they do some dumb and frustrating things out there, capped off by Pearson’s costly penalty. Just doesn’t seem to be clicking 100% like it should, but at the same time feels promising enough like that major breakout is always juuuust around the corner. Unfortunately, it remains elusive.
  • Blown 2-0 and 3-2 leads at home against a non-playoff team. That leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Oh well.

And, just like that the eight game winning streak is history. The Pens were just a little too sloppy tonight in this one to come away with the win, but that’s life and they all weren’t going to be wins. One day off to regroup before the homestand concludes on Tuesday with Florida in town.