The Pittsburgh Penguins controlled large portions of the game and more importantly controlled the dirty zones along the wall and down low against the Chicago Blackhawks. However, after 40 minutes they were tied 3-3 with the Chicago Blackhawks. A few failed clearing attempts on a third period Chicago power play, the Penguins trailed. Their penalty killing was the culprit Sunday night as Chicago hung three on the PK including two just after a power play expired.
The Penguins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 10th straight time, 5-3 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins penalty killing, which is ranked in the fourth in the NHL, allowed cross-ice passes and space to shooters. To great success, Chicago made DeSmith and the defenders move side-to-side and DeSmith was not at his best.
“Special teams were the difference tonight. I thought five-on-five we played fairly well. I put my money on our guys five-on-three any day and we usually don’t give up two on the penalty kill,” Jack Johnson said.
At even strength, the Penguins had answers for nearly everything. They began the game with stretch passes out of the zone and transitioned to lateral plays at the blue line as Chicago adjusted by retreating but confronting the puck carrier at the blue line. Bryan Rust sneaked behind the defense a couple of times and the Penguins were able to create space all night.
“I don’t think they had a scoring chance until the 8:45 mark of the first period, but I thought we got lured into a little bit of a track meet,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought we played a lot of good minutes. When you look at the difference tonight it was special teams.
The advanced stats also told a misleading story; that Chicago was competitive at even strength.
Perhaps the Penguins fell in love with the quick-cutting redirect play, as they used it no less than four times without success in the second period; that is part of the track meet mentality Sullivan mentioned. The Penguins third line tried it three times as all three forwards, Derick Brassard, Phil Kessel, and Tanner Pearson were stoned on their deflection attempts.
The line finally broke through–together–in the middle of the second period (more below).
Chicago top line pushed the Penguins in the second period with a puck possession game. Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews combined for nine shots and 14 scoring chances (Toews had a game-high seven shots. Five at even strength).
“We kind of wanted a little bit of revenge tonight, in our own building. We just let it slip away,” said Casey DeSmith.