Penguins rally, but fall in OT to Blackhawks
By the time the Penguins' locker room cleared out after the 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, almost all of the players' attention had turned to Wednesday's rematch with the Blackhawks or at least to the encouraging final 20-plus minutes of the recently finished game.
Two goals in the third period erased Chicago's 2-0 lead, and just importantly for the Penguins, the rally showed a resilience the team sought earlier this season, when it rarely recovered from deficits.
Perhaps more than others, David Perron allowed his mind to wander to the more discouraging moments, though. The near-misses and pings off the post, several belonging to him and linemates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, again left the Penguins longing for more than just a one-point improvement in the standings.
Artemi Panarin's second goal of the game, which came almost four minutes into overtime, improved the Blackhawks to 9-4 in overtime, while the Penguins fell to 4-5.
“I think our effort tonight was outstanding,” said defenseman Kris Letang, who has factored in nine of the team's past 13 goals. “We created a lot of chances, a lot more quality scoring chances than they had. They got a couple lucky ones that went in the goal. I think we played an awesome game, but a team like that, that's got a lot of experience, they win the Stanley Cup for a reason, so you have to be almost perfect.”
Before Letang netted the tying goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, and before Sidney Crosby scored his sixth goal in six games to initiate the comeback early in the third, the Penguins pushed back against a perennial league power to dictate possessions over much of the final two periods.
“I said to our guys, even after the second period, when we're down 2-0, it could've been the other way,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we raised our intensity level when we had to, and for me, that's a great sign for this team.”
It became one of several squandered opportunities by the game's end, but the Penguins' first sign of life after a poor final five minutes in the first period emerged when Perron stole a pass from Marian Hossa and raced into Chicago's zone on a breakaway. His shot, which zipped wide of the net, ended a stretch of more than five minutes without a Penguins shot attempt.
“It kind of messed with me in my head a little bit because I think if they challenged that, it'd be offside,” Perron said. “I think someone still was on the ice; I think it was Kunitz. So going in on the breakaway, it was like, ‘Wven if I score here, it's probably not a good goal.' I missed the net there, and I'd like to have that one back ... just confidence-wise.”
Shortly thereafter, Crosby collected a puck near the post on Crawford's left side with several seconds to consider his options. After pondering a tight-angle shot, the center opted to dish the puck toward Perron and into traffic instead. Perron never got the chance to put a shot on goal.
And midway through the period, Perron flipped a puck toward Crosby in front of the crease, only to watch the star center miss an open goal mouth with his oft-celebrated backhand. Perron then collected the puck to Kunitz, who stung a post with a shot.
The Penguins, who trailed 21-11 in shot attempts after one period, finished with a 68-54 edge in the category.
“I know if we get post looks every night, we're going to score more than a couple,” Crosby said. “Those five-goal games that we had (against Detroit and the New York Islanders) weren't flukes. Those were things that we earned. The puck luck we got, we deserved.”