Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

PITTSBURGH – There are certain trends through which the Blackhawks tend to go sometimes. They can be so-so against teams on the bubble or out of the postseason. But face a playoff-bound team and the Blackhawks usually come with a top-notch game.

Exhibit A on that came on Wednesday.

Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane each had two-point nights, and Marian Hossa scored his 25th of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game winless streak and now have a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the West.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots and Richard Panik scored his 22nd goal of the season. Bryan Rust had the Penguins' lone goal 5:46 into the third period.

The Blackhawks had played well here and there over the last month but putting it all together has been a challenge. On Wednesday, however, the Blackhawks were looking more like themselves. From slick passes to opportunistic goals to playing the same from start to finish, it was a much-needed effort.

"We did a lot of good things. Great start, nice plays on the goals," coach Joel Quenneville said. "That Tampa Bay game [on Monday] was like that for 30 minutes, but I liked the continuation of today's game. A couple of shifts they had some good momentum but I think we stabilized it, played a safe and smart game with the lead."

The Penguins, much like the Blackhawks, entered this one with 103 points. But while the Blackhawks are missing Artem Anisimov right now, the Penguins are missing several, including Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Still, it's the Penguins, and you underestimate them at your own risk. The Blackhawks didn't.

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The Blackhawks got the early lead, then really pounced in the final five-plus minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks got stellar set-up passes from Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz and finishes to accompany them. Two of their goals (Marcus Kruger and Hossa) came in the final minute of the first period for that 4-0 lead.

"We knew we wanted to have a good start. Sometimes you have guys in here who can see plays and things open up. A lot of good plays by everyone tonight, a lot of scoring across the board so that was good to see," Kane said. "That's kind of the game we've been hoping for the past few weeks. You get a great start that obviously helps the rest of the game."

The Penguins had the first six shots of the third. But the Blackhawks would score on their first of the period when Tanner Kero, who had another good game at second-line center, took the turnover from Justin Schultz and finished on a breakaway.

This road trip was a mixed bag for the Blackhawks. It started off in forgettable fashion. It ended the way the Blackhawks hoped, with the complete game they've been looking for the past few weeks.

"Really good start," Crawford said. "Obviously we scored a bunch of goals, but I thought our game was even better after that. We had some good kills, [didn't] give them momentum on their power play and it was great game, a full game for us."

Robin Lehner starting Game 1 for Vegas Golden Knights against Blackhawks Tuesday

Robin Lehner starting Game 1 for Vegas Golden Knights against Blackhawks Tuesday

Ahead of the start of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs' matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer announced former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner will get the start in net for Vegas in Game 1 against his former team. 

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk during the 2019-20 regular season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

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Lehner was in net for the Knights' overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in a round-robin contest to help Vegas grab the No. 1 seed in the West for Round One, pitting them against the Blackhawks, who were the No. 12 seed in the qualifying round and were reseeded to be No. 8 for Round One.

Following Saturday's game, Lehner was asked about facing the Blackhawks and his former goalie partner Corey Crawford and if playing with the Hawks earlier this season carries an advantage.

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"I don't know. All I know is it's going to be fun playing them," Lehner said. "They're a very good hockey team and I have a lot of respect for them, the whole organization... but I think I really like it here (with Vegas), we're a great hockey team."

The 29-year-old netminder got off to a hot start with Vegas ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 going 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

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COVID-19 pandemic delays Marian Hossa, Doug Wilson's 2020 Hall of Fame inductions

COVID-19 pandemic delays Marian Hossa, Doug Wilson's 2020 Hall of Fame inductions

On Monday, Lanny McDonald, chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame announced that the 2020 HHOF Induction Weekend is being postponed "until further notice due to continuing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Blackhawks legends Marian Hossa and Doug Wilson, in addition to Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe and Kim St-Pierre make up the 2020 HHOF's Player Category, with Ken Holland in the Builder Category.

The 2020 Induction Celebration was previously set for Monday, November 16th in Toronto. 

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The Hall's Board of Directors will address rescheduling plans for the induction when they meet on October 29, 2020.

"While it's possible the class of 2020 could be inducted on alternative dates during the modified 2020-21 NHL season, the most likely scenario is to postpone to November 2021, either by waiving the 2021 elections or in combination with the 2021 induction class involving adjusted category limits," McDonald said in a statement. "Since the magic of the induction from the Honoured Members' perspective is experiencing several days of close interaction with family, friends, former teammates and fans, the Board ruled out any means of holding the 2020 inductions virtually."