PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Blackhawks lost more than a potential two points on Sunday.
The defending Stanley Cup champions lost their captain, Jonathan Toews, to an upper-body injury in the second period of what turned out to be a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Toews, with his head down, was driven hard into the boards by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik while attempting to collect the puck 13:20 into the second. He skated to the bench favoring either his left arm or shoulder and retreated down the runway to Chicago's dressing room shortly after. He did not return.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews' injury is not expected to be serious and he is day-to-day. Chicago was already without forwards Patrick Kane (lower body) and Bryan Bickell (upper body). Quenneville said the Blackhawks are targeting Thursday for Bickell's return.
Chicago forward Marian Hossa, a former Penguin, called Orpik a "fair guy," but forward Patrick Sharp said he thinks Orpik "knew who he was hitting."
"It was a big hit. I didn't really break it down," Sharp said. "I just saw it during the play. You could tell he was trying to hit him hard … It's tough when you see your captain get hit like that."
Orpik didn't think the hit was out of the ordinary.
"There was no penalty, so I don't know," Orpik said. "I think that hit happens 10 times a game."
Chicago controlled the third period, but Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made nine third-period stops to preserve the 2-1 lead. Fleury, who allowed five goals during a 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Blackhawks at Soldier Field on March 1, earned his 36th win of the season and his second straight following a stretch of five winless starts.
Sidney Crosby scored his team-leading 35th goal 36th goals of the season to give the Penguins added insurance. Crosby went on a 2-on-1 with Lee Stempniak and snapped a shot past Corey Crawford to increase the lead to 3-1 with 4:51 remaining in regulation.
Crosby's second goal was an empty-netter with 1:16 left for the Penguins, who now have 101 points and sit comfortably atop the Metropolitan Division.
Crawford finished with 23 saves.
Chicago, which has lost four of its past five games and each of its three games on its road trip, remains in third in the Central Division with 99 points, one behind the Colorado Avalanche.
"We were creating some chances," Crawford said. "We had some good momentum there. I think during the third period, we had some great shifts that almost ended up as goals, but we were just missing some and [Fleury] came up with some big saves too.
"We can't let this snowball."
With the Blackhawks down 2-0, defenseman Sheldon Brookbank scored with 8:50 remaining in the second period to pull them to within one goal. Brookbank slapped a shot past Fleury for his second goal of the season and his first since Oct. 28.
Before Brookbank's goal, Chicago had struggled to get anything generated in Pittsburgh's zone. The Blackhawks were held to nine shots through the game's first 30 minutes.
Chicago controlled the remainder of the period and recorded its last six shots. Its 17th-ranked penalty-killing unit shut down the League's second-best power play (23.2 percent) twice in the second.
The Penguins scored on two of their first four shots of the game to build a 2-0 lead entering the first intermission.
Jussi Jokinen sent a pass through the neutral zone to send James Neal on a 2-on-1 with Beau Bennett. Neal decided to keep the puck and wristed a shot in front of a sliding Duncan Keith and past Crawford's left pad for his 24th goal of the season 9:46 into the first.
"[We allowed] a couple odd-man breaks," Quenneville said. "I know the ones late in the game, you're pressing, so you're going to give up something like that, but I think we have a tendency for doing the right things and going to the puck on the odd-man break. I think we were a little off. Whether it was on out gap or our backside pressure, so it was a little softer coverage."
Stempniak scored his third goal as a Penguin to extend the lead 21 seconds later. Matt Niskanen sent a pass through the right side of Chicago's defense to Stempniak at the Blackhawks' blue line. Stempniak, with defenseman Johnny Oduya draped on him, shot the puck through Crawford's five-hole.
The Blackhawks had a chance to score the game's first goal over a minute into the period after Andrew Shaw juked Olli Maatta and went and drove toward the Pittsburgh goal alone. Shaw sent a shot off the right post.
The Penguins have won back-to-back games following a three-game losing streak. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was visibly animated during a television timeout midway through the third period with Pittsburgh holding a one-goal lead.
"At that point in the game, we were playing too much defense and they were coming at us," Bylsma said. "They involve five people in their offense a lot and they were coming at us with their defensemen. For a good portion of that third period, we were just playing too much defense and part of it was our execution level and us not being able to advance the puck out of our zone against their five guys playing hard against us.
"I thought using the TV timeout to basically call a timeout and get refocused and get our guys back playing and playing in the other direction, I thought that was the time for it."