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Penguins allow 10 goals in ugly blowout loss to Blackhawks

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 11:29 p.m.

CHICAGO — When a goaltender wins his debut with a new team, his teammates often give him a game puck as a memento of the occasion.

Defenseman Kris Letang gave new teammate Antti Niemi something different after the goalie's first start in a Penguins uniform Thursday night.

An apology.

Letang said the Penguins should be sorry they forced Niemi and Matt Murray to try to clean up their messes in a brutal 10-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I feel bad for them,” Letang said. “I don't know what to say. I'll say I'm sorry for these guys. They don't deserve that. They're two guys that battle really hard. It's not the way to start Antti on his first game with his new team. We owe him a big one.”

Niemi will be the flashpoint, because he was making his first regular-season appearance as Marc-Andre Fleury's replacement behind Murray on the depth chart.

He did little to stop the Chicago onslaught, allowing four goals on 13 shots before being pulled less than 10 minutes into the game.

But if Niemi had a bad game, he was hardly alone among those wearing black and gold. Every player who dressed was on the ice for at least one goal against.

“It's early, but it's disturbing,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When you lose a game like that, it's disturbing. I don't care when it is in the season. We've got to do some soul searching. Right now, we are simply not playing the game the right way. We've got a long way to go, and it starts with a mindset.”

Pondering exactly what went wrong for a moment just after the final horn sounded, captain Sidney Crosby's did his best to contain his rage.

“It's a 10-1 game. Do I have enough time?” he said. “It's embarrassing.”

It was the first time the Penguins gave up 10 goals since a 10-8 loss to San Jose on Jan. 13, 1996. It was their first nine-goal loss since falling 9-0 to Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, 2003, the season before they drafted Crosby.

When Chicago came out of the chute like a team playing with emotion on the night of its home opener, the Penguins failed to muster an answer.

Pine-Richland's Brandon Saad had a hat trick in his first game back with the Blackhawks after a two-year exile in Columbus. Patrick Kane filled up half his personal highlight reel one game into the season, scoring a goal on a filthy backhand shot off the crossbar in the second period and setting up four others, two on brilliant backhand feeds.

Chicago's first four goals came on nine shots in a span of 2 minutes, 55 seconds in the first period.

The first, by Ryan Hartman at the left post off a no-look feed from Kane from behind the net, came after a dreadful breakout attempt.

The second, scored by Saad on a two-on-one with Richard Panik, came after Justin Schultz fell down trying to skate to a Crosby pass just inside the offensive blue line.

The mistakes were big, ugly and plentiful for a Penguins team that has allowed 15 goals in its first two games of the season.

“We know we have to be a lot better effort-wise,” Letang said. “The execution wasn't there tonight, and it led to a lot of odd-man rushes.”

Sullivan was able to muster up just one half-hopeful assessment moments after the beating concluded: It can't get much worse.

“We have a good group here. I know these guys care,” Sullivan said. “I know we're better than what we showed tonight, and I know we'll be better than what we showed tonight. The responsibility falls on me.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (left) scores against Penguins goalie Antti Niemi during the first period Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Chicago.
Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (left) scores against Penguins goalie Antti Niemi during the first period Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Chicago.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby leaps over teammate Olli Maatta as he chases the puck against the Blackhawks on October 5, 2017 in Chicago.
Getty Images
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby leaps over teammate Olli Maatta as he chases the puck against the Blackhawks on October 5, 2017 in Chicago.
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