PITTSBURGH, Pa. The Chicago Blackhawks final 20 minutes was exactly what they were looking for against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, the first 40 werent.
Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg scored, but the Blackhawks lost Marcus Kruger for the final two periods to injury and the game to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2 on Tuesday night. It was the Blackhawks first regulation loss in the month of December, and denied them at least a point for the first time in their last nine games.
I dont know what we were playing like in the first 40 minutes, said Stalberg, who also assisted on Toews goal. We basically handed them two points tonight.
But the bigger concern was Kruger. The center was hit hard near the boards by Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland about midway through the first period. Replays showed that Engelland appeared to leave his feet and hit the Blackhawks center in the head with his forearm.
(Kruger) was on the bench to start the second. A couple of times I had to call him and he didnt end up getting out there, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes OK now. A high hit, a tough area, he was in a tough spot.
John Scott came to Krugers defense, fighting and bloodying Engelland. Quenneville said Scott did the right thing, but Scott was nevertheless given a two-minute instigator and a 10-minute misconduct. That gave the Pens a power play, which Chris Kunitz converted for a 1-0 lead.
Weve got to find a way to kill that for him, Stalberg said of Scott. John does what hes supposed to do and stands up for a guy, so it was good to see that.
Scott said Im always going to stand up for my teammates. Anybody else on this team wouldve done the same thing.
But the Blackhawks were nevertheless down, as they spent too much of the first 40 minutes in the penalty box. Pittsburgh went on seven power plays, although they scored on just that Scott one. Nevertheless, the Penguins would turn that 1-0 lead into a 3-0 advantage by the end of the second period. James Neal and Tyler Kennedy added the other two Pens goals.
Then the Blackhawks woke up offensively in the third. Toews scored just 49 seconds into the final frame and Stalberg added his goal about five minutes later. The Blackhawks outshot the Penguins 19-4 in the final 20 minutes, and hit a few posts, too.
The Blackhawks final shot came on a power play with about 91 seconds remaining in regulation, but they werent able to convert.
The Blackhawks biggest player came to a teammates defense. And the Blackhawks nearly came back from the first 40 so-so minutes. The former couldnt be avoided. The latter couldve been.
We won the third but its frustrating we couldnt do that for a full 60 minutes, Stalberg said. We have to find a way to be more prepared. We cant start like that against a team like this. Theyre too good and theyre going to take advantage of us.
Brent Seabrook played after being hit from behind on Sunday. He played just over 23 minutes, with six blocked shots and three shots on goal.
Marian Hossas secondary assist on Stalbergs goal extended his point streak to six games.
Patrick Sharps point streak was snapped at nine games.