Penguins lose to Blackhawks, fail to gain in Eastern wild card race
Mrazek makes 38 saves for Chicago, which scores twice in 26 seconds in 3rd periodby Wes Crosby / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins allowed two goals in 26 seconds in the third period, failing to gain in the Eastern Conference wild card race with a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.
Evgeni Malkin scored a tying goal at 5:28 of the third, and Tristan Jarry made 22 saves for the Penguins (40-31-10), who had won three of four.
Pittsburgh remained one point behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East with one game remaining for each. The Penguins will be eliminated from playoff contention if the Islanders get one point against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
"Anybody can beat anybody in this league. That's the reality," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "There's such a fine line between winning and losing. You have to be at your best every night. When you're not, you're going to run the risk of getting beat."
The Florida Panthers, who hold the first wild card, clinched a playoff berth with the Penguins loss and the Buffalo Sabres' 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. With five fewer regulation wins than Florida, Pittsburgh can't pass the Panthers despite being two points back with one game left.
Petr Mrazek made 38 saves, Buddy Robinson had a goal and an assist, and Anders Bjork had two assists for the Blackhawks (26-49-6), who had lost three straight and 11 of 12. They lost 4-2 to the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
"The guys were just determined," Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. "I think we've played really good hockey as of late. We just couldn't get over that hump in the third period. Tonight, they were determined to get over the hump. A lot of credit. A lot of hard work out there."
Video: CHI@PIT: Robinson fires the puck home from the slot
Robinson put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 at 10:22 of the third with his first goal in nine games this season, chipping a bouncing puck in from the slot. Andreas Athanasiou then extended it to 3-1 at 10:48 by banking in a backhand off Jarry from behind the left post.
"We knew they were fighting for a spot," Athanasiou said. "It gives a lot of guys in this room an opportunity to come in and be a little bit of a heartbreaker. That worked out tonight for us."
Tyler Johnson scored into an empty net to make it 4-1 with 1:24 remaining before Danton Heinen cut it to 4-2 with 38 seconds left. MacKenzie Entwistle scored another empty-net goal with 23 seconds remaining for the 5-2 final.
Malkin tied it 1-1 on the power play by redirecting a slap shot from Rickard Rakell in the slot.
"It's tough," Malkin said. "There's like no words. We should win here at home. We understand how important this game was tonight. It was huge."
Connor Murphy gave Chicago a 1-0 lead at 8:04 of the second period with a one-timer from the point that went in off the right post.
Video: CHI@PIT: Murphy buries a one-timer from deep
Sidney Crosby nearly tied it at 13:06. Jake Guentzel found him just above the crease for a wrist shot that couldn't get past Mrazek's outstretched right pad.
"He made some good saves," said Crosby, the Penguins captain. "There were some pucks that just laid there that typically would go in. For whatever reason, didn't seem to tonight. It's one of those things, you get those chances consistently, you think that they go in most times. Tonight, they didn't."
Crosby could have put Pittsburgh ahead on a partial breakaway at 3:52 of the first but had a backhand turned away by Mrazek. He had another chance on a power play at 13:24 when he took a pass from Rakell along the goal line but couldn't lift a shot over Mrazek's left pad at the right post.
"Sometimes he's had my number in the past," Mrazek said of Crosby. "Today, it was on my side. So I'm happy for that."
NOTES: Pittsburgh has qualified for the playoffs in 16 straight seasons, the longest active streak in major North American professional sports. … Penguins defenseman Dmitry Kulikov had two hits in 9:54 of ice time after being a game-time decision. He missed the previous 14 games with a lower-body injury. … Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira (undisclosed) did not play. Ian Mitchell entered the lineup as a seventh defenseman with Khaira out and had a blocked shot in 8:06. … Pittsburgh forward Alex Nylander had one hit in 8:54. He was recalled on an emergency basis from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, the fifth time he had been called up in 36 days.