The Penguins welcomed a really good Chicago Blackhawks team to the CONSOL Energy Center and came out with mostly great performance earning two points in regulation against a team that led the NHL with 46 points and are loaded with talent. The win broke the Hawks five game winning streak as they came in 8-1-1 in their last 10 before this game.
The first two periods were all Penguins all the time. They built up a 3-0 lead with goals from Chris Kunitz (power play), James Neal and Tyler Kennedy. All three goals were set up by Evgeni Malkin and they looked like they were going to cruise to victory. Too bad nobody told the Blackhawks they were supposed to lay back. The Blackhawks took it to another level in the third period and dominated that period, scoring two goals and ringing two pipes. They were brining it and had a two man advantage after pulling the goalie and getting a power play on a Neal trip but Marc Andre Fleury decided he wanted to be a big deal again and shut the door.
MAF was pretty outstanding tonight. He made 36 saves on the night but saved his best for the third period when the Hawks came out buzzing when they were leading out an extra forward on the breaks and beating the Penguins into the zone and getting great chances. They put two past him but he was a brick wall the last half of the third period. MAF hasn’t been overly great recently but he really snapped back to form.
Chris Kunitz continues to be outstanding. He scored a huge power play goal to open up the scoring and just continues to play great hockey. Much the same can be said for Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke but these are the kind of guys who are pushing the Penguins to wins and when teams are putting all their energy to stop Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal and James Neal these are the guys who are coming through with big plays to get the team points.
Speaking of Malkin how good has this guy been? After tonight he is now the leader in the league in points and is averaging 1.44 points per game. Malkin has had multiple point games in 9 of his last 14 and collected 25 points in those games. While he didn’t have a goal tonight he set up all three and made an unreal pass on the Kunitz goal. Those that were saying that Malkin just isn’t the same player is just dead wrong right now.
Deryk Engelland might be the next Penguins defenseman to miss some time but not because of injury. He gave a hit to a Blackhawks player and his forearm/elbow made contact with the head and you could argue that he left his feet. I would imagine he will be suspended a game or two.
I do not get into the hits stat too much because in a regular season game it really doesn’t mean much but the Penguins outhit the Hawks 30-11. Pretty physical for the game. The Penguins also won 37-of-60 faceoffs including one with 2.5 seconds left in the third period in the defensive zone. It was a huge advantage tonight.
Game again on Friday against the Jets.