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game recap

Penguins lose fourth straight, fail to gain in Metro

Fall to Blackhawks, who extend Central lead to nine points

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to gain in the Metropolitan Division race, losing their fourth straight, 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday.

Pittsburgh (46-19-11) remained in third place in the division, two behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and seven behind the Washington Capitals.

The Penguins have lost four in a row (0-2-2) for the first time since they lost five straight (0-4-1), which included Mike Sullivan's first four games as coach, from Dec. 11-19, 2015.

 

WATCH: All Blackhawks vs. Penguins highlights

 

Pittsburgh is missing eight regulars because of injury, including forward Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and defenseman Kris Letang (upper body). Sullivan said that isn't an excuse for the Penguins' recent play.

"I believe we have what it takes to win. I believe we have enough," Sullivan said. "We understand that some of the guys we have out of our lineup are difficult to replace. They're good players, so we understand that. But we also believe we have what it takes to win.

"That's where our focus needs to be. We can't control the other stuff. What we can control is the lineup that goes into the game each and every night. We believe we have enough to win games."

Chicago (49-21-7) is nine points ahead of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division and Western Conference. The Blackhawks are five points behind the Capitals, who have one game in hand, in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

After losing two straight games, including a 7-0 to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he was pleased with the response Wednesday.

"I thought we did a lot of good things," Quenneville said. "We had a great start. Some nice plays on the goals. I thought the Tampa Bay [Lightning] game [on Monday (a 5-4 overtime loss)] was like that for 30 minutes, but I liked the continuation of today's game. … I thought we played a safe and smart game with the lead."

Video: CHI@PIT: Panik buries a sizzling one-timer

Artemi Panarin, Richard Panik, Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa scored in the first period Wednesday to give the Blackhawks a 4-0 lead.

Patrick Kane set up Panarin for his 26th, which made it 1-0 at 3:23. Panik pushed it to 2-0 with a one-timer past a moving screen from Jonathan Toews for his 22nd at 14:39.

Panarin and Kane worked toward another goal with 55 seconds remaining, helping Kruger score his fourth of the season. Panarin passed to Kane, who tapped it to Kruger for him to make it 3-0 with a shot from the right circle.

Hossa ended the first-period scoring with his 25th with 16 seconds remaining. The goal was upheld after Pittsburgh challenged if Chicago was offside.

Video: CHI@PIT: Kero pads lead with a breakaway goal

Tanner Kero made it 5-0 on a breakaway at 3:32 of the third period, his sixth. Bryan Rust scored his 13th to make it 5-1 at 5:46.

Corey Crawford (Chicago) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh) each made 31 saves.

"[The game] was really good. It was a 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 to not give them momentum on their power play. It was a great game, full game for us."

 

Goal of the game

Kane drove through Pittsburgh's zone and started to turn behind the net before he backhanded a pass around Chad Ruhwedel to Panarin near the left post. Fleury leaned toward the right post, expecting Kane to wrap a shot around the net, which allowed Panarin to bank a shot off the back of the goalie's right pad for Chicago's first goal.

Video: CHI@PIT: Kane, Panarin combine for slick goal

 

Save of the game

Fleury temporarily kept it 2-0 after Panarin had a breakaway. He took a wrist shot that was turned away by Fleury's left pad at 15:26 of the first period.

Video: CHI@PIT: Fleury denies Panarin's breakaway chance

 

Highlight of the game

After Ryan Hartman intercepted a pass from Tom Kuhnhackl in the defensive zone, Hartman charged down the near wall and passed through Ian Cole to Hossa in the right circle. Hossa sent a wrist shot past Fleury for Chicago's fourth goal.

Video: CHI@PIT: Hossa buries Hartman's feed on the rush

 

Unsung performance of the game

Defenseman Brent Seabrook led the Blackhawks with four blocks. He also had two hits.

 

They said it

"I think it's good to know we can play like that. So, let's keep building. Let's try to get this momentum going into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] where we're firing on all cylinders." -- Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane

 

"The last couple of games haven't been good enough. … We've just got to be better. That's the bottom line." -- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby

 

Need to know

Hartman and Rasmussen returned to the lineup after each was a healthy scratch against the Lightning. … Sullivan said he is confident Letang will be available when the playoffs start (as early as April 12).

 

What's next

Blackhawks: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, FS-O, NHL.TV)

Penguins: At the New York Rangers on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG 2, ROOT, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Four-goal 1st propels Hawks past Pens in Pittsburgh

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