This has been an intriguing matchup for years but the Blackhawks struggles this season lead to a decrease in excitement for this game. The Penguins came in 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and ninth in their conference while the Blackhawks are dead last in the NHL and have lost 8 in a row.
There were a few changes to the Blackhawks roster ahead of the game. Forward Dylan Sikura and defenseman Carl Dahlstrom have been recalled from the Rockford IceHogs and Alexandre Fortin has been reassigned. Artem Anisimov was moved to the IR retroactive to December 9 for concussion protocol.
The Blackhawks registered their first shot on goal only :19 into the game. A much better showing than the 17 minutes it took them the previous night in Winnipeg. They looked to have a lot more life early in the game than what has been displayed in the last month.
The Blackhawks kept up pace with the Penguins early. Both teams got shots on net but not any high percentage chances through the first half of the period. After the 10 minute mark the Blackhawks really started to show some spunk and created some space to skate with the puck.
It was the fourth line that came through by getting the puck down low and then causing some traffic in front of the net. Marcus Kruger hit the crossbar on a shot but the puck ricocheted out to Carl Dahlstrom. He fired a shot that deflected off of Andreas Marinsen’s upper body and into the goal at 14:14 to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.
Late in the period Brent Seabrook did a great job to keep a play alive as the team showed a lot of determination as they were able to control the puck. Seabrook was rewarded at 17:51 as his slap shot went over Casey DeSmith’s glove to make the game 2-0 Blackhawks.
The excitement didn’t last long as the Blackhawks couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone as the Penguins wore them down. Bryan Rust snapped a shot over Corey Crawford’s glove only :49 later to cut the lead in half going into the second period.
Brendan Perlini was called for tripping 2:35 into the period to send the NHL’s ninth best power play unit to the ice. The Penguins were able to control the puck and register a couple shots on goal early but the Blackhawks were able to clear the zone. This kept the attack away for the second minute resulting in a penalty kill.
Two minutes later Derek Grant forced a Seabrook turnover which resulted in a one-on-one situation where he was able to get off a low slap shot. The rebound went directly to Rust who was able to get another one past an outstretched Crawford at the opposite post to tie the game at 2.
At 15:06 Jean-Sebastien Dea was called for holding on Henri Jokiharju to send the Blackhawks to their first power play of the night. Alex Debrincat cashed in with a rare Blackhawks power play goal :22 later. He took an awkward pass from Kane, dangled through the defense and went top shelf from just in front of DeSmith to give them the lead 3-2.
Unfortunately the Blackhawks could not finish the period with the lead. Rust completed his hat trick with only :57 to go in the frame after his pass deflected off of Seabrook’s stick and over Crawford. The period ended with the game tied at 3.
Evgeni Malkin got the period started with a hooking penalty on Perlini :39 in. The Blackhawks did not score on the power play but made it 4-3 just :10 after it expired. The fourth line came through again as Martinsen was able to get control of the puck behind the net and get it to Kruger in front for the goal.
Corey Crawford continued to keep the Blackhawks in the game late with some great saves. It was highlighted by a point blank stop of Tanner Pearson.
The Penguins pulled DeSmith with a little over two minutes to play in the game. A scary moment for the Blackhawks as Kane dove in an attempt to put in an empty net goal and crashed into the boards. It took him a long time to get to the bench while grimacing.
Toews and Saad eventually added two empty netters to seal the game at 6-3 for the struggling Blackhawks.
This was one of the best team games for the Blackhawks this season. There were contributions from every line, the defense, special teams and Crawford who had 40 saves. There is plenty to build on as they clawed their way out of the bottom spot in the league with two points in the win.
Hopefully the win doesn’t come at the cost of Kane. The-Rink.com will keep you updated on his status.
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