The Penguins and Blackhawks feature some the games brightest stars. And with players like Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Beau Bennett, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, the two teams put on a show for the sold out crowd at United Center.
It took 65 minutes and a shootout to decide. Beau Bennett’s shootout score was the difference-maker in a 4-3 victory.
The Penguins had goals from Derrick Pouliot, Joe Vitale and Sidney Crosby. The Blackhawks had goals from Sharp, Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig.
*Robert Bortuzzo had a very Robert Bortuzzo type of game. He was getting into players’ faces and under their skin. Head coach Dan Bylsma has said Bortuzzo plays a “sandpaper” type of game. That was evident against the Blackhawks. He leveled Patrick Kane behind the net and seconds later dropped the gloves with Sheldon Brookbank. In the second period he go into a scrap with Patrick Sharp. Bortuzzo so irritated Sharp that the Hawk cross-checked the blueliner in the back of his head, twice. One thing is for sure, teams absolutely hate playing against Bortuzzo. Which is why the Pens love to have him.
*Derrick Pouliot showed flashes of his brilliance, but also the drawbacks of his age and inexperience in Chicago. Pouliot once again looked exceptional on the power play. He even netted a goal for his team. Pouliot received a pass above the near circle and skated toward the goal. He snapped a shot that beat Nikolai Khabibulin through the five-hole. He had the game on his stick in overtime from right in front, but his shot was stopped. But as is to be expected he also made some rookie mistakes. While retrieving a puck in his own zone on the man-advantage, Pouliot was stripped of the puck by Smith, who scored shorthanded. Pouliot is still very young and will learn from those mistakes. When he does, look out.
*It was quite an eventful game for Joe Vitale. He scored a goal, was flying all over the ice and received a nasty hit from behind by Ryan Stanton. Vitale was also clutch on the penalty kill, and made a smart play to skate to the bench after he broke his stick on a shorthanded faceoff. Vitale’s goal was the result of a three-on-two rush with him crashing the net and potting the rebound. His only negative was taking a penalty. But Vitale was all heart for the Penguins against the Blackhawks.
*A final hat tip goes to the coaching staff. They noticed that the Blackhawks defense were playing aggressive and favoring one side of the ice. The Penguins were able to attack their weak side with speed and used long-range breakout passes to create several breakaway opportunities. One particular play was a beautiful read and loft pass by Beau Bennett, who looked like a quarterback throwing a pass over the safety, ahead of his receiver and hitting him in perfect stride.