After a disgusting 7-0 loss against Florida was followed by an ugly three-goal-lead-blowing loss in Tampa, the Hawks looked to rebound in Pittsburgh against the defending champion Penguins. Ryan Hartman was let out of the doghouse, and Corey Crawford was back in net.
Fans wanted a strong showing early, and got it.
Patrick Kane did a Patrick Kane thing and Artemi Panarin got the Hawks on the board at 3:23 into the first.
With the Hawks’ top offensive line scoring first, the line of Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik got into the act 11 minutes later.
If Kane hadn’t provided enough highlight reel material earlier in the period, his set-up of Marcus Kruger to extend the Hawks’ lead to three inside the final minute of the period was just silly.
The Hawks have been haunted by goals in the final minute of periods all season, so scoring one with 55 seconds left in the first was nice. But scoring twice in the final minute of a period? Surely you can’t be serious!
Marian Hossa was serious… and…. nevermind.
Hossa’s 25th of the season is the 524th of his Hall of Fame career, tying him on the NHL’s all-time list with Brian Trottier.
The Hawks were terrible at the dot in the first period, but carried a 4-goal lead and a 16-10 shot advantage into the second.
Fans also wanted to see the Blackhawks get a lead and hold onto it. Would the Hawks hang on in Pittsburgh?
Marc-Andre Fleury stayed between the pipes for Pittsburgh when the teams came out to start the second period, and survived 11 more Chicago shots to escape the second still chasing four goals. After 40 fast minutes, Chicago had a 27-22 shot advantage and Crawford was perfect in net.
Chicago opened the third period playing strong defense, and Tanner Kero was rewarded for his shot blocking with a breakaway goal.
Kero’s sixth of the year came unassisted and pushed the lead to five. His goal also meant everyone on that line – Kero, Kane and Panarin – had two points on the evening.
Fleury stayed in the game.
After the Kero goal Pittsburgh started throwing their weight around more, and it led to the end of Crawford’s shutout bid. Bryan Rust scored his 13th of the season at 5:46 into the third.
The lead would stay at four the rest of the way, and the Hawks would – at least for the night – appear to be back on track.
Kane’s two points push him that many ahead of Sidney Crosby in the scoring race in the NHL.
Pittsburgh, playing without a significant number of key players, was short-handed four times in the game. Crosby skated 10 seconds on penalty kill.
Crawford had a fabulous night, stopping 31 of 32.
Chicago’s rookie forwards had another strong night.
Kero had one goal, one assist, five shots on goal, two blocked shots, one hit and one takeaway to lead the effort. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. John Hayden led the Hawks with six shots on net and was also credited with a team-leading three hits in 10:35. Hartman had an assist, three shots on goal and one takeaway in 16:59. And Schmaltz picked up one assist, two takeaways and one hit in the victory.
After the game, Hayden had to sit down for the post-game interview with Pierre McGuire.