PITTSBURGH – Hey, you weren’t expecting the Blackhawks-Pittsburgh Penguins game to end in ho-hum fashion, were you?
This is Pittsburgh, where Blackhawks’ potential regulation victories always go to die. But a little 3-on-3 never hurt anyone, and it certainly didn’t hurt the Blackhawks in their 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Tuesday night. And just in case you didn’t get enough excitement on Tuesday, these two are right back at it again on Wednesday.
But before we get to part 2 of the home-and-home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Tuesday.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
1. Spurned in regulation again. The Blackhawks’ last regulation victory in Pittsburgh came on Feb. 22, 1997 at the old Civic Arena. Well, we can’t blame the building because the Blackhawks can’t win in regulation in the new CONSOL Energy Center, either. We’ve grown accustomed to the Blackhawks, when staked to a lead after 40 minutes, to automatically winning in regulation. But all usual events get thrown out in Pittsburgh.
2. 3-on-3 is fun. OK, we admit it: we’re hooked. There’s obviously a gimmicky side to this new overtime format but anything that helps us avoid shootouts is welcome. And if you like being entertained to any degree, you loved the three-plus minute overtime between the Penguins and Blackhawks on Tuesday. Two great teams full of talented and skilled players, and all on display in those few minutes. As coach Joel Quenneville said, this overtime format “is great for the sport.”
3. Artemi Panarin is stealth. Quenneville said the young Russian was “ordinary” most of Tuesday’s game. But he gave full marks to Panarin’s two goals and to his game through the first half of this season. Panarin is still rounding into form in some areas of his game but when he does get a chance at a shot, there’s little hesitation and plenty of confidence. Said Duncan Keith, “he’s got a great shot. I think he showed that tonight. He’s been a big addition to our team.”
4. Go with Corey Crawford again on Wednesday? It’s a question Quenneville will have to seriously ponder as Crawford stopped 34 of 36 shots, including five in overtime, in Tuesday’s victory. Crawford has been great. Scott Darling has struggled, but the Blackhawks need to get their backup goaltender going, get him confident again. So who to start?
5. Sidney Crosby is still Sidney Crosby. The Penguins star was questioned earlier this season, when he was struggling offensively. Well, he’s not struggling anymore. Crosby had a goal and an assist on Tuesday, giving him six goals and six assists in his last eight games. Even Crawford had to give Crosby credit on his third-period snipe. “It’s a good shot,” he said. “I didn’t really pick it up that great, but it was a pretty quick release and a quick shot. I guess you just have to forget about that one. Guys are going to make nice shots some times.” Especially that guy.