The Chicago Blackhawks entered Sunday’s game four points out of a playoff spot and desperate for wins. That urgency manifested itself in the Blackhawks’ game from the drop of the puck, as the defending Stanley Cup champions tested goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury early and often by sending nine blasts to the net in the first five minutes.
But although the Penguins eventually fell in a shootout by a score of 3-2, Pittsburgh’s depleted lineup showed grit and character by battling back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to earn a point in the standings against a loaded Chicago squad.
One of the Penguins’ best moments of the afternoon came when Matt Cooke netted a shorthanded tally against the league’s No. 2-ranked power play off a beautiful play by Brooks Orpik that broke up an opportune Blackhawks scoring chance and gave Pittsburgh some momentum.
The Penguins’ defensive play all throughout their lineup was outstanding. Fleury was a rock between the pipes for his team yet again, stopping 12 shots in the first frame and making some show-stopping saves in the overtime period to keep Pittsburgh in the game.
Brooks Orpik made his presence known on the ice on Sunday.
The Penguins defenseman had one of the afternoon’s best plays that came while Pittsburgh was shorthanded (against the league’s No. 2-ranked power play). Orpik went down on one knee and laid his stick flat on the ice to break up a cross-ice pass in the slot and deflect the puck out of danger. The rubber went right to the stick of teammate Maxime Talbot, who wheeled down the ice to feed Matt Cooke for the shorthanded tally that tied the game at 1-1.
Orpik, who earned his 11th assist of the season on that play, displayed his physicality by throwing a game-high seven hits (two more than any other player on the ice) while shutting down Chicago’s top line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Orpik even took a stick to the mouth that drew blood while keeping Sharp from breaking loose for a breakaway, drawing a four-minute power play for the Penguins.
Orpik finished the night with 22:08 of ice time, exactly three minutes of that coming on the penalty kill.
After tying the game 1-1 off a shorthanded tally by Matt Cooke in the first period, the Penguins had fallen behind for a second time off a fluky goal by Bryan Bickell that snuck into the top right corner of the net just 1:09 into the third period.
Then with just over three minutes left to play in regulation, Brett Sterling, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy earned a 3-on-1 opportunity. Kennedy’s shot caused Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford to go sprawling on the ice and the rebound went out to Staal. He couldn’t cash in, but Sterling managed to corral the puck and slam it home to tie the game 2-2.
Sterling’s goal – his third in five games – allowed the Penguins to force overtime and earn a point in the standings.
CHICAGO (AP) - Patrick Kane scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell scored in regulation for the Blackhawks in their third straight game without coach Joel Quenneville, who is recovering from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an ulcer.
Matt Cooke had a short-handed score for Pittsburgh and Brett Sterling fired in a rebound from the edge of the crease with 3:18 left in the third period to tie it at 2-all.
- Matt Cooke’s tally with 6:08 left in the second period that evened the score at 1-1 was his third shorthanded goal of the season, a number which ranks fourth (tied) in the league. Cooke now has six shorthanded points this year (3G-3A), a number that leads the National Hockey League. Sunday marked Cooke’s first game back after serving a four-game suspension.
- Cooke’s goal was Pittsburgh’s ninth shorthanded tally of the season. That number ranks second (tied) in the league.
- The Penguins’ top-ranked penalty kill (clicking at an 87.8-percent success rate) killed off all three Blackhawks' power-play opportunities to end the night a perfect 3-for-3. Chicago has the league's No. 2-ranked power play, converting exactly 24 percent of its chances.
- The last four meetings between the two teams have now gone into overtime. Last season, the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena thanks to Kris Versteeg’s game-winning goal. The year before that, the Penguins earned a 5-4 overtime win in their last trip to the United Center on an Evgeni Malkin power-play tally, despite Jonathan Toews recording his first-career hat trick. Pittsburgh won the only shootout contest between the two teams, 5-4, on Feb. 14, 2007.
- Pittsburgh outhit Chicago by a 50-33 margin, led by Brooks Orpik’s seven hits and five apiece from Tim Wallace and Kris Letang. Wallace was a force all over the ice, managing to throw those five checks through 8:30 of ice time while being effective on the forecheck and backcheck.
- Brett Sterling now has points in all five games he's played since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 10. The 5-foot-7 sniper has three goals and two assists during his five-game point streak.
#1. Patrick Sharp
Left wing - 19
#2. Brett Sterling
Left Wing - 12
#3. Bryan Bickell
Left wing - 29
Author: Michelle Crechiolo