PITTSBURGH – There’s something about the Blackhawks when they play in Pittsburgh: it’s never easy.
The Blackhawks haven’t taken a regulation victory in this city in nearly 20 years – seriously, it was Feb. 22, 1997, when some of the current Blackhawks were elementary-school age or younger.
Tuesday wasn’t easy, either. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were going to squander a point after squandering a two-goal lead, they found the overtime answer.
Artemi Panarin scored two goals, including the winner 3:47 into overtime, as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday. The Blackhawks have now won four in a row as they head back to Chicago, where they’ll face the Penguins again on Wednesday night.
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Jonathan Toews, who scored his 14th goal of the season, was cut early in overtime when he collided with Patrick Kane. Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews is fine and the captain is expected to play on Wednesday.
Corey Crawford had another strong game, stopping 34 of 36 shots in the victory.
The Penguins scored twice in the third period, a snipe from Sidney Crosby and a Kris Letang offering that deflected off Patrick Kane’s stick, as they salvaged a point after trailing 2-0 the first 40 minutes. The Blackhawks weren’t surprised by the pushback from the Pens, who are 7-0-5 in their last 12 meetings vs. the Hawks in Pittsburgh.
“I think it can be better in the third,” Duncan Keith said. “They were pressing. We made a few mistakes but they’ve got a good team, got some firepower and they’re going to get some chances and I thought it was a good overtime. They had some chances but we played good positionally and we gave them the outside and gave them some tougher angles."
The fact that the Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead through the first two periods was a bit surprising. They weren’t playing that well, with passes finding their opponents more than teammates. Still, Panarin, off a pass from a patient Kane, put the Blackhawks up 1-0 about nine minutes into the second and Toews scored with just over a minute remaining in the period.
“That second period it could’ve easily been 2 or 3-0 their way,” Quenneville said. “We had a really tough stretch there; we gave the puck away too many times. We got two breaks on our goals and they got themselves back in the game.”
Then came overtime – shtick or not, it’s entertaining and it was definitely that again on Tuesday night. Both Crawford and Marc-Andre Fleury made some fantastic saves before Panarin got the winner.
“I mean, he’s patient,” Crawford said of Panarin. “He’s got a great shot. He seems like he’s getting better as the season goes here. He’s definitely dangerous all over the ice.”
The Blackhawks always have some interesting outings in Pittsburgh. This one was no different, and a regulation victory would’ve been nice. But they’ll take the two points, even if it comes with some added drama.