PITTSBURGH — Former Penguins stalwart Chris Kunitz scored his first goal of the season, the Chicago mastery of the Penguins continued and the Penguins eight-game win streak crashed to a halt. The Penguins squandered a 2-0 lead and lost 5-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena Sunday night. Chicago has won 10 in a row against the Penguins dating back to 2014.
The loss put the Penguins in second place, two points behind Washington in the Metro Division.
The Penguins penalty killing unit had a night to forget. They were burned for two official power play goals, including the game-winner from Dylan Strome (10) early in the third period and for the Duncan Keith’s marker a moment after the Chicago power play expired.
“They way (Patrick) Kane handles it in the faceoff circle near the dot, you have to respect it,” said losing goalie Casey DeSmith. “And he’s really good at getting passes through the seams.”
Later in the first period, Alex DeBrincat (19) scored a power-play goal with a one-timer from the left wing circle, which kept Chicago in the game as the Penguins led 2-0.
“They did a great job on their power play. We just didn’t have it on our penalty kill,” DeSmith lamented.
The Penguins controlled the first period.
Patric Hornqvist who is widely credited with sparking the Penguins turnaround sniped a pretty goal just a few minutes into the game. The Penguins dominated what head coach Mike Sullivan calls the battle zones along the wall, which became a running theme Sunday night. From the end boards, Evgeni Malkin snapped a pass to Hornqvist (15) who didn’t let the puck rest as he whipped it past Chicago goalie Cam Ward from the right wing circle.
The Penguins continued their control of the walls through the first period.
Just a few minutes after Hornqvist scored, Jake Guentzel (18) banged home a rebound and the Penguins led 2-0. Kris Letang originated the play with the shot on goal, and the assist extended his points streak to seven games.
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The Penguins eight-game win streak ended in the loss but the Penguins did put it in context. Penguins third line center Derick Brassard (7) did cash in on a feed from Phil Kessel in the second period.
“Every second day we’re coming to the rink and playing games. We’re having fun so I feel we’re not counting wins. We just play,” said Derick Brassard.
In the second period, Kunitz who was honored along with the rest of the 2009 Penguins Stanley Cup championship, scored his first goal of the season and tied the game 2-2. Kunitz (1) schooled his Penguins heir apparent Dominik Simon by outracing Simon into the zone to get open for the one-timer. Kunitz’ yell after scoring could be heard throughout the arena and probably had a few meanings, too.
Jonathan Toews scored the empty net goal to seal the win.