Pittsburgh Penguins

Four takeaways: Blackhawks rally to beat Penguins for 10th straight time

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks rally to beat Penguins for 10th straight time

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday:

1. A streak is snapped and extended

The Penguins went into Sunday having won a season-long eight games in a row. They also went into it on a nine-game losing skid against Chicago. One of the streaks was going to be broken. 

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, it was the former that ended and the latter that extended. 

The Blackhawks put up five goals — one an empty-netter — against a Penguins team that had allowed only nine total over their eight-game winning streak. And the Blackhawks did it by overcoming a 2-0 deficit to score five of the next six goals.

It was a gutsy comeback win by the Blackhawks, who improved to 7-3-2 since their eight-game losing streak.

2. Special teams play huge factor

The Blackhawks' special teams have been getting better over the last several weeks, and it came up large in Pittsburgh.

After cutting their deficit to 2-1 late in the third period thanks to a power-play goal, the Blackhawks quickly found themselves shorthanded and were also forced to kill a 5-on-3 penalty for 1:11 in the same sequence. It was a key moment, with the Blackhawks going into first intermission down by 1 when it could've been a multi-goal deficit.

As far as the power play, the Blackhawks converted on one of three opportunities but it felt like it should have been 3-for-3 because Duncan Keith scored his goal two seconds after the second penalty expired and Dylan Strome scored seven seconds after the third expired. 

Special teams were the No. 1 reason why the Blackhawks won, and it continues to trend in the right direction.

3. Chris Kunitz breaks through on old stomping grounds

The Penguins honored their 2009 Stanley Cup team on Sunday for their 10-year anniversary. It was cool that Kunitz was in town for it, having won three of his four Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.

The Blackhawks showed a great sign of respect by including Kunitz in the starting lineup with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. But the memorable night didn't stop there.

In his 24th game this season, Kunitz finally found the back of the net for the first time in a Blackhawks sweater and it was only fitting that he broke through at his old stomping grounds. He got rid of the monkey off his back, which must have felt good after he's battled for ice time all year long.

4. Five different Blackhawks score

The Blackhawks got offensive contributions from up and down the lineup, and that's always a positive. Let's run it down:

— Two players scored their first goal of the season (Keith and Kunitz)

— DeBrincat scored on the power play for his 19th of the year

— Strome scored his seventh as a member of the Blackhawks

— Toews potted the empty-netter and also recorded an assist for his third six-game point streak of the season

— Patrick Kane had three assists for his 75th career three-point outing in the NHL

— Four of the six defensemen recorded at least one point

When you're firing on all cylinders and getting primary and secondary scoring, most times you're going to end up with two points. And the Blackhawks did.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks finally score first, snap eight-game skid

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Wednesday to snap an eight-game losing streak:

1. First-period demons exorcised?

The Blackhawks have been talking and talking about starting on time for the last several weeks now, and the more they talked about it the more they thought about it too much and it eventually crept into their psyches. But they finally put those to rest. Well, at least for one night.

For the first time since Nov. 18 — a span of 11 games and 24 days — the Blackhawks scored the first goal. And even better, they built upon it by scoring the second one, too, just 2:36 later to go up 2-0 in the first period.

It had been a long time coming and the Blackhawks finally had a chance to play with a lead after doing so for only 41 seconds of their previous 662:32 minutes over the last 11 games.

"It’s been a while since we’ve scored first in a game," said Andreas Martinsen, who was credited with the first goal and registered his first multi-point game of his NHL career. "We’ve been talking a lot about having good starts, and we finally got one. And then we just kept going."

2. Staying with it

When you're on an eight-game losing streak, snapping out of it will never be easy. The Blackhawks found that out the hard way.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Penguins responded by scoring three of the next four goals — all of which were by Bryan Rust, who recorded his second career NHL hat trick — to even it up at 3-3 through 40 minutes of play. It tested the Blackhawks' character and mental toughness. 

And it showed, as the Blackhawks answered back by scoring three unanswered in the third period, albeit two of which were empty-netters, to seal the deal for their first win in 18 days.

“It’s a relief," Jonathan Toews said. "It’s definitely just a good feeling for guys. We’ve got something to celebrate. We’ve got something to enjoy. We were reminded with an exciting reason to come to the rink in a few days and come out with the same effort. It’s something we’ve got to be aware of and build off of in the next one.”

3. Contributions across the board

The Blackhawks got contributions up and down the lineup, from their forwards to defensemen to goaltender.

Marcus Kruger, Martinsen, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each recorded a goal and an assist. Toews had a goal and two assists to crack the 700-point mark for his NHL career. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to five games with an assist. Duncan Keith added one, too. Alex DeBrincat lit the lamp for the second straight night. And Corey Crawford finished with a season-high 40 saves on 43 shots for a save percentage of .930.

It was a well-rounded effort, one that makes it feel even better for the guys in the locker room when celebrating a true team victory.

"It’s always huge to pot a few," Toews said. "As an individual, it always helps your confidence. To see [Martinsen] and [Kruger] around the net and [DeBrincat] scoring the way he did, even if it’s on kind of a broken play or whatever you want to call that, it’s good for our power play. We’ll take those when we can. It’s good for our team. We’ve got to use that confidence now. We’re putting all that in the rearview mirror and let this snowball in the right direction now.”

4. Carl Dahlstrom's noticeable season debut

The Blackhawks made a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday's game, which was highlighted by the call-up of top forward prospect Dylan Sikura. But it was Dahlstrom who made a strong first impression on the back end.

The 23-year-old defenseman registered a primary assist, four shot attempts (three on goal), a plus-2 rating and one hit in 22:34 of ice time, which ranked third on the Blackhawks. Jeremy Colliton leaned on him heavily and clearly wasn't afraid to do so.

"He was good," Colliton said. "Very under control, he skates so well, such a big body, he can handle a lot of minutes. But I thought he was clean with the puck and he was able to get stops in D zone. Very good effort from him."

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.