The buzz before the Blackhawks took on the Penguins in Pittsburgh was about Chicago sitting their two young guns, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach, because of their “plan for development.”
It felt like the Blackhawks and Penguins were waiting for the LSU-Alabama (college football) game to end before they started skating. The first period saw the two teams combine to put 15 shots on net and neither side sustained a great deal of pressure.
In the second period special teams came into play and the scoring followed.
Chicago started the second period short-handed with Patrick Kane in the box for 1:36. The Hawks were able to kill that penalty and soon after got an extended two-man advantage of their own. Jack Johnson went to the box and was joined by Brandon Tanev 26 seconds later.
The Blackhawks did a marvelous job of passing the puck in a circle during the power play(s) and failed to score. Somewhat surprisingly the Penguins burned their timeout during the two-man advantage.
Joel Quenneville used to say teams that don’t take advantage of a 5-on-3 are likely to lose. The Penguins could have pounced after a nice effort (albeit not a great look from the Hawks’ PP units) but it was Chicago that got on the board.
Dominik Kubalik scored 35 seconds after the power plays expired to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Slater Koekkoek, skating for Boqvist because “rest,” put the puck into Brandon Saad’s skates but Saad was still able to set up Kubalik on the doorstep.
Chicago got back on the board 1:38 later when Kane sniped home his sixth of the season.
Jake Guentzel took an Evgeni Malkin pass and finished a rush to cut the lead to 2-1 at 16:04. Koekkoek got danced by Malkin (many have over the years) and Alex Nylander didn’t appear to be terribly excited by the prospect of getting back to help on Guentzel.
That’s where the score would stay through the end of 40 minutes of play; the Blackhawks had a 21-19 shot advantage through two periods.
The Pens carried the action to begin the third period but Sidney Crosby left the Pens bench three minutes into the third.
Dylan Strome went to the box at 5:43 for tripping, opening the door for Pittsburgh’s power play to make an impact but there was still no sign of Crosby back on the bench. Chicago did a terrific job killing the two minutes.
The next goal came from Bryan Rust at 10:57 into the third. Rust was set up beautifully by John Marino on the backdoor for an easy finish. Malkin picked up his second assist on as many goals.
The third period ended with the score tied at two. Crosby never returned to the Pens’ bench after leaving early in the third period. Chicago had a 29-26 shot advantage after 60 minutes of hockey. The Penguins blocked another 14 shot attempts while the Hawks were credited with a dozen blocks.
But the game was not over.
Three minutes into overtime Kane, Jonathan Toews and Erik Gustafsson circled the zone for about 30 seconds and never put a shot on net. Pittsburgh fans were booing the Blackhawks for circling the wagons without any action.
The overtime period came and went. Chicago was credited with two shots in the extra five minutes while Pittsburgh was credited with five. Each side put 31 shots on net in 65 minutes of hockey.
The game would require a skills competition.
Guentzel beat Crawford to open the shootout; Toews was denied. Malkin was stoned by Crawford; Kane embarrassed Matt Murray with a quick release. Jared McCann rifled a shot past Crawford; Alex DeBrincat shot it wide and the Penguins emerged victorious.
Olli Maatta was honored with a welcome back video during the game. He was credited with five hits, second behind Zack Smith’s six on the Blackhawks in regulation. Toews was credited with one shot on net in regulation while Kane was credited with only two.