The Blackhawks were the better team for most of the contest but failed to deliver the knockout blow to the Penguins.
After an impressive 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks came into Saturday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with some confidence. The Blackhawks have been trending in the right direction with better play as of late.
The game opened with a dull first period, as neither team generated much offensively. The second period was much more exciting with loads of back-and-forth action, and the Blackhawks found the back of the net first on a beautiful passing play. Slater Koekkoek jumped in on a 3-on-1 rush to find Brandon Saad, who made a great play to kick the puck to his stick to find Dominik Kubalik for his fourth goal of the season.
Just over a minute and a half later, the Blackhawks doubled their lead as Patrick Kane struck for his sixth goal of the year. With the goal, Kane extended his point streak to five games. Corey Crawford robbed former Blackhawk Dominik Kahun moments before Kane’s goal, which allowed the ‘Hawks to strike in transition.
The Blackhawks were the better team in the middle frame, which hasn’t happened often this season, especially on the road. Unfortunately, the ‘Hawks couldn’t hold on to their two-goal lead for long, as Evgeni Malkin connected with Jake Guentzel to cut the Blackhawks lead in half. Slater Koekkoek didn’t do much defensively on the play to help out his goaltender.
Despite being the better team through 40 minutes, there was a feeling that two goals weren’t going to be enough to win the game. That proved to be correct, as early in the third period Penguins defenseman John Marino found an open Bryan Rust to tie the game at 2. Once again, Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta were the Blackhawks defensemen on the ice for the goal, but Brandon Saad’s lack of coverage is what allowed Rust to get so wide open in front of the net.
Both teams played cautiously after Rust’s goal to ensure that at least one point was secured. Overtime was required to determine a winner, which is something the Blackhawks are familiar with. In just 16 games this season, the Blackhawks have played in overtime SIX times already.
Five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey didn’t result in a goal, so the game headed to a shootout. Pittsburgh got on the board first in the shootout thanks to Jake Guentzel, who beat Corey Crawford five-hole with the backhand. Patrick Kane tied it back up in the second round with a nifty five-hole goal of his own. Jared McCann rang one off the post and in to give the Penguins the lead back in the third round, and Matt Murray came up with a huge stop on Alex DeBrincat to seal the victory.
The Blackhawks were able to come away with one point, but this was a game they should have won. It is still early in the season, but the ‘Hawks need to start getting two points when they give those kinds of efforts.
Five Takeaways From Saturday’s Game
- Erik Gustafsson had one of his best games of the season, as he led the Blackhawks in Corsi-For percentage. The 27-year-old defenseman was on the ice for 15 shots for to just seven against for a 68.18 CF%. Gustafsson has been better since being scratched by Jeremy Colliton last Saturday vs. the Kings.
- The Blackhawks penalty kill has now killed 23 of the last 25 opponent powerplays, which is a 92% success rate. The penalty kill is currently ranked 16th in the NHL at 81.1%. Now if the Blackhawks could just figure out that powerplay…
- Zack Smith didn’t play much vs. Pittsburgh, but the veteran forward was effective when he was on the ice. Smith had 3 SOG, 6 hits, and won 50% of his faceoffs in just 9:47. Expect Smith to remain in the lineup Sunday night vs. Toronto.
- Patrick Kane is back to looking like himself with 3 goals and 5 assists during his five-game point streak. Kane recorded just one assist in the five games prior to the point streak, so it’s great to see ‘Showtime’ producing consistently once again.
- Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots and looked terrific all night long. Crawford had no chance on both of the Penguins’ goals in regulation and made a handful of saves down the stretch to secure one point for the Blackhawks. Whether it’s Crawford or Lehner in net, goaltending continues to be an area of strength for the ‘Hawks.
The Blackhawks are right back in action Sunday night as they head back to the United Center to take on the 9-5-4 Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite being in second place in the Atlantic Division, the Leafs have underwhelmed so far this season with nine wins and nine losses. Of course, Toronto is loaded with offensive power, which could be trouble for the Blackhawks defense. The ‘Hawks will get a little bit of help though, as Leafs’ forward Mitch Marner will not make the trip to Chicago. The game is slated for 6:00 p.m. and is scheduled to be on NHLN and NBCSCH.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman@) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkinHawkey).