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Penguins stay perfect by beating Hawks 4-2

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- It’s only the preseason, but don’t tell that to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Pens are rolling along through their tune-ups even without superstar Sidney Crosby -- and they didn’t slow up on Friday night at the United Center. After building a 3-0 lead midway through the second period, the Pens held on despite a late Chicago comeback for a 4-2 victory in front of 20,114.

Ex-Blackhawk Steve Sullivan, Matt Cooke, Joe Vitale and Evgeni Malkin all scored for the Penguins, who improved to 5-0-0 and will try for a perfect preseason on Sunday with a visit to Detroit.

Brent Johnson picked up the win by making 35 saves – including one right on the doorstep in the third period by Blackhawks rookie center Brandon Pirri, who was bidding for a hat trick.

"Could've had a couple (more), but you know ... you try not to look back on those ones," Pirri said.

Pirri, 20, scored both goals for the Hawks and now has three in the preseason while making a serious bid to stick with the Blackhawks to start the season. On the other end of the spectrum, veteran goalie Ray Emery, who's in camp on a tryout contract, might have damaged his chances to make the team as the backup to Corey Crawford.

Sullivan’s goal on the power play with 3:35 left in the first period got things started, but the goals in the second by Cooke and Vitale might give Hawks coach Joel Quenneville and his staff something to chew over while trying to make a final decision to keep Emery or rookie Alexander Salak.

"We’ll visit [the goaltending situation] at the end of training camp, as we’ll visit with all our players," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "There is no deadline [to make a decision]. We’ll see, we’ve still got time to look at it and sort it out, we’ve got one more game and a couple more days, and we’re going to do what we feel is best for us short-term and long-term at the position.”

Emery came out of the net to clear a puck off the boards, but the puck bounced right to Cooke near the red line and he fired it home into the vacated net. Vitale then made it 3-0 by tapping the puck into the net after Emery couldn’t get to the post quick enough.

"I feel good," Emery said. "It's a weird situation for me. I know I can play, so we'll see. It's a different time right now."

Quenneville said Crawford was held out of practice Friday morning as "maintenance," and that "we're still undetermined with Corey for Sunday. He originally was scheduled for that, but we'll see how he is Sunday morning. He didn't skate today. It was more maintenance. We'll see. If he's ready for Sunday, he's scheduled to go."

Malkin iced it by hitting the empty net during a power play that was caused when Pirri was called for his second penalty of the game.

"Our defensemen and forwards tracking back were fantastic and you’ve got to give them praise," Johnson said. "(Chicago was) flying around, especially when they see they’re down a goal and they want to get back in it, you could tell they were forcing everything, it seemed like their defense were pinching on us and keeping the puck in at the blue line, so it was quite a tough third [period], but we battled and got the win.”
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