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Penguins/Blackhawks Recap: Crosby’s four point night leads Pens to win in Chicago

Evgeni Malkin scores a goal in his 1,000th game, but it’s Captain Crosby who leads the way with a late game winning goal for the Pens

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images


Some nice moments early, with the whole team paying homage to Evgeni Malkin on the night of his 1,000th goal by warming up like he does with his unique pre-game stretching routines.

Casey DeSmith is in net on the back-to-back, otherwise the lines and lineup is the same as the previous win. Mike Sullivan also gives Malkin a nice little nod, starting the second line at the beginning of the game, which typically is reserved for Sidney Crosby’s line about 99.9% of the time.

First period

The Blackhawks are one of the weakest and worst teams in the league, and it doesn’t take Pittsburgh long to draw first blood. Brock McGinn gets on the ice on a line change and no Chicago player picks him up at all. Turns out to be a big problem when a couple of quick passes from Crosby and Rickard Rakell send McGinn in alone. McGinn goes to a half-slapper and rips his sixth goal of the season short-side on goalie Arvid Soderblom to open the scoring just 1:04 into the game.

Jeff Carter and Jason Zucker come very close to scoring goals of their own but Soderblom finds a way to keep them out. The Blackhawks get the game’s first power play, but it’s the Pens who have the best scoring chance out of it when McGinn makes a really nice play to send Teddy Blueger on a breakaway. Soderblom denies Blueger’s attempt to the backhand five-hole shot and the score remains 1-0 Pens.

For the rest of the period, the Pens let Chicago hang around and give some hope and looks to a team that usually goes away if they have no reason to believe it (like last night in Boston when they were out-shot 43-18). Instead, Pittsburgh gives them reason to stick around and Chicago gets almost as many shots in the first period (16) as they had all of last night.

Pittsburgh only has eight shots of their own, but had pretty decent chances to score on just about all of them.

Second period

Early in the second, the Pens strike again with another mixed up line. Evgeni Malkin extends his shift and is out with the fourth line wingers when Ryan Poehling bursts down the left side with speed. Malkin stays on the ice and heads to the front of the net and a couple of Blackhawks get caught puck watching. Poehling centers from behind the net for Malkin, who quickly snaps in career goal No. 452 in game no. 1,000 to put the Pens in front 2-0.

Pittsburgh is sensing blood in the water at this point, the first line jumps on and Rakell rings a laser of a shot of the post. That doesn’t go in, but the Pens regroup and Crosby wires a great pass across the ice for Rakell to one-time from the left side and past Soderblom and extend the lead to 3-0, just 1:40 after Malkin’s goal.

Chicago gets onto the board about halfway through the second after some sloppy play from Kris Letang and the top pair defense. Jason Dickinson dekes out DeSmith and then sends a pass over for Jujhar Khaira for a tap in goal and it’s a 3-1 game.

Jake Guentzel gets called for hooking, but Maxi Domi prematurely ends Chicago’s advantage by taking a penalty of his own. It doesn’t detour the Hawks, who score a 4v4 anyways. Jonathan Toews feathers a nice pass right through Marcus Pettersson and the puck on edge gets to Kane right in front. Tough play, but as one of the greats, Kane has no issues lifting the rolling puck quickly to the top shelf past DeSmith to bring Chicago back within one goal at a 3-2 score.

Letang takes a penalty at the end of the second after slashing a Chicago player on a breakaway.

After a lot of action in the second, the teams exit the period the same way they entered it: with the Pens up by one goal, but Chicago still hanging around and with a full 2:00 power play and fresh sheet of ice to start the final frame.

Third period

The Pens kill off the penalty, but Jason Zucker gets whistled for a hooking call on the backcheck on a pretty weak call by the refs to give Chicago a fourth chance on the evening. Pittsburgh’s PK matches with a great kill and excellent work from Poehling and Josh Archibald in particular to keep the puck out of their defensive end.

Chicago hangs around long enough and they find an equalizer with 4:11 left. Philipp Kurashev fires it to the net from the corner and behind the goal line. Not sure if it glanced off Malkin’s skate or just snuck past DeSmith otherwise, but yuck.

At this point, Sidney Crosby had seen enough. He bulls into the offensive zone, finds his shot blocked but drives to the net, picks the puck back up and deposits it backhand into the net. 4-3 Pens re-establish their lead with 3:14 left in the game.

The Blackhawks pull their netminder, but don’t go down easily. Kurashev blocks Crosby’s shot attempt at the open net, later Pittsburgh ices the puck and Chicago utilizes their timeout with 53 seconds left to regroup and plan for one last push. It doesn’t work, Crosby pokes the puck over for Jeff Carter to finish off this game at 5-3.

Some thoughts

  • The Pens are in a weird spot right now where many players are excelling in playing really well in their roles at the moment. I’d put all of McGinn, Poehling, Zucker, Malkin, Crosby, Rakell in that pile for the guys carrying the team right.
  • But the ones who aren’t in that group are playing pretty poorly. Did not like Jake Guentzel’s decisions with the puck throughout the night and he took a bad penalty. Letang was messy, took a penalty and is struggling to stay afloat with a ton of goals against. Brian Dumoulin sadly looks like a Jack Johnson/bad Rob Scuderi hybrid with every passing game. Jeff Carter is largely MIA. Danton Heinen is right there with him. It’s hard to remember the last time Bryan Rust created a chance or did something good with the puck (not counting the easy goal last night that was a gift).
  • Yet, despite the issues throughout the lineup, the team was winning 3-0. They made it more difficult than it needed to be, the Pens still skated away with a win in their third road game in four days. It’s true the opponent wasn’t elite tonight, but they’re still NHL players and ones who played an inspired game while looking to respond and bounce-back from being embarrassed last night.
  • The Pens’ PK was a very bright spot, killing off all four Chicago penalties. And they generated a pair of clean breakaways (Blueger, Poehling) and were probably unlucky to not have converted one into a goal of their own. Pretty crazy how quickly that unit when from a huge liability for Pittsburgh and turned into a very steady group.
  • On the other hand, the team’s power play struggles continues, going 0-for-2 on the night but that is also somewhat misleading. With all the back-and-forth calls, Pittsburgh’s power play only had a total of 1:44 of time spent with the man advantage, so it’ll look worse in the stat book than it actually was given the circumstances.
  • Mike Sullivan doesn’t often complain publicly about the officiating, but it would be understandable if at least privately his blood wasn’t boiling a little over this game. The Pens got rang up on a few ticky-tack calls. Chicago probably got away with a few, given a 4-2 edge in minors. The standard for what was being called or let play was a bit all over the place, and not in Pittsburgh’s favor. (Of course, up 3-0 just 24 minutes into the game like Pittsburgh was, the refs usually don’t tend to favor the team in the lead..Which probably had a little something to do with it..)
  • Crosby has only played eight games in Chicago due to injury and scheduling (lockouts, divisional play, etc) and tonight was only his very first goal @CHI. The Pens always struggled in the heyday of both teams in the decade of the 2010’s, as did Sid himself. Not too many times left for him to get a “first” in his illustrious career and he found a great time to get on the board.
  • Crosby’s up to 10 points in the last three games. (Vince McMahon falling out of chair.gif)

In the end, all is well that ends well, and the Pens put another win in the books and sweep through their week out west with three wins in as many games. They’re back in the thick of the early playoff chase as a result. This one didn’t involve many style points, but the good news for Pittsburgh is that on a night like this they had Sidney Crosby and he wasn’t about to let them lose.