Blackhawks beat short-handed Penguins in shootout
PITTSBURGH — With a couple of flicks of the wrist, the Chicago Blackhawks headed into the NHL All-Star break with momentum.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane beat Marc-Andre Fleury in a shootout to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Chicago improved to 8-2 in games decided after regulation when Toews beat Fleury between the legs, and Kane followed with a wrist shot the goalie watched sail by his blocker.
“We have great confidence,” Toews said. “Our goaltender can make stops and we have shooters who like to be in that situation. We like our odds given the circumstance.”
The Blackhawks also regained swagger following a pair of decisive home losses to Winnipeg and Dallas. Chicago thumped Arizona 6-1 on Tuesday and backed it up by surviving a game effort from the undermanned Penguins to win in Pittsburgh for only the second time since 1997.
“Even if things aren’t going so well, we’re good at taking responsibility for it and not dragging our feet around and dwelling on what we’re not doing or what’s not going our way,” Toews said. “We just find ways that we can make things better, and we showed an example of that in the last two games.”
David Rundblad and Marian Hossa scored in regulation for Chicago. Corey Crawford made 33 saves and held Pittsburgh’s David Perron and Sidney Crosby in check in the shootout.
“It was a tough game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You find when you win these types of games, it makes you a good team.”
Zach Sill scored his first NHL goal and Steve Downie added his eighth of the season for the Penguins. Fleury stopped 24 shots but Pittsburgh hobbled into the break with a fourth straight loss, among them a bruising overtime defeat in Philadelphia on Tuesday that included injuries to stars Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin.
Letang was held out as a precaution following a frightening collision with Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Malkin skated during warm-ups on Wednesday before telling trainers he couldn’t play due to an undisclosed issue. Malkin’s status for All-Star weekend is uncertain.
The absence of two vital parts of Pittsburgh’s core took some of the punch out of the game both teams hope is a Stanley Cup preview, though neither has looked like a top-flight contender the last month.
Pittsburgh has cooled to fall just off the pace of the first-place New York Islanders in the crowded Metropolitan Division. Chicago trails surprising Nashville and steady St. Louis in the Central.
Rundblad gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 6:56 in. The defenseman took advantage of a dominant shift by the top line of Hossa, Toews and Brandon Saad. The trio kept the puck buried in Pittsburgh’s zone for more than a minute, with Rundblad taking a feed from Hossa at the point and sending a shot past a well-screened Fleury for his fourth goal.
Hossa doubled Chicago’s lead early in the second with his 10th goal, a wrist shot from just inside the left circle that Fleury barely saw through the sea of bodies. Yet just when it appeared the Penguins were ready to collapse, they responded behind some unlikely contributors.
Sill went 47 games before recording the first point of his career with an assist against Minnesota last week. He didn’t wait nearly as long to earn his second, sending a wrist shot from the slot over Crawford’s glove 5:21 into the second.
The fourth-line forward nearly smacked a Chicago player in the head with his stick during a giddy celebration, one that provided the spark necessary to wake the Penguins from a weeklong swoon.
Downie tied it at 12:22 of the second, stuffing a rebound past a sprawled Crawford for his first goal since Jan. 2. That set up an electric back-and-forth third period that played in stark contrast to Pittsburgh’s penalty-filled meeting with the Flyers the night before.
“When we’ve been short players, really short players we seem to be able to pick it up,” coach Mike Johnston said. “We need to be able to do that when we have everybody in the lineup. … Our depth really stepped it up.”
The Penguins host Winnipeg next Tuesday but will play 21 of their final 36 games on the road. … The Blackhawks face a difficult six-game trip after the break, starting next Wednesday at Los Angeles. … The game was stopped twice in the first period due to a clock malfunction. One delay lasted nearly five minutes. … The Blackhawks went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 2. … Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall said Rinaldo feels “horrible” about his illegal check on Letang. Rinaldo will have a teleconference with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday.
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar