Penguins rally to defeat Blackhawks in shootout but lose Crosby to injury
Half a decade has rolled by since the previous occasion the Penguins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks.
On Saturday, the Penguins snapped that slump of 10 games with a 3-2 shootout victory at PPG Paints Arena.
But of greater significance is the well being of captain Sidney Crosby. He left the contest with 18 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third period because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Mike Sullivan had no update on Crosby beyond noting he is being evaluated and suggested an update might be available on Monday.
Crosby is the Penguins’ top scorer with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 17 games. Beyond the basic statistics, his impact should be obvious to anyone who has watched this franchise with even a passing interest during the 15 seasons it has employed Crosby.
“We’re just hoping for the best,” goaltender Matt Murray said. “But, obviously, he’s our leader. He’s the best player in the world. So if he’s out, we’ll miss him for sure.”
The Penguins entered the game already missing the talents of all-star defenseman Kris Letang as well as forward Patric Hornqvist, one of the NHL’s top players in front of the crease.
Despite missing three of their best — and most expensive — players the Penguins have staged comebacks from multiple goals in each of their past three games and have won two of them.
“Just for us to be able come back again in the third, it shows what kind of character and commitment we have on this team,” forward Jake Guentzel said. “To come out and get two points there is huge.”
The contest began as if the Penguins would not get any points, as had been the case for most of their previous 10 meetings with the Blackhawks.
Chicago opened the scoring at 7:09 of the second period when forward Brandon Saad, a native of Gibsonia, created a three-on-one rush with defenseman Slater Koekoek and forward Dominik Kubalik against Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson. The sequence resulted in Kubalik burying a forehand shot past the left skate of goalie Matt Murray.
They doubled their lead only 1:38 later when all-star forward Patrick Kane ripped a wrister from the right dot past Murray’s glove hand on the near side.
The Penguins finally got on the scoreboard at 16:04 of the second. After stealing the puck in the neutral zone, forward Evgeni Malkin roared into the offensive zone on the left wing. Waiting until seemingly the last possible moment, Malkin fed a pass around Koekoek’s stick to the slot, where a trailing Guentzel whacked it past the glove hand of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
Following Crosby’s departure and their third unsuccessful power play of the game — they have failed to convert on 26 consecutive opportunities with the man advantage of their past 11 games — the Penguins found a way to force another tie at 10:57 of the third.
Taking a pass from Malkin above the right circle, rookie defenseman John Marino displayed uncanny patience and waited for a cross-ice seam to open up. Once it did, he zipped a pass below the left circle, where forward Bryan Rust lifted a wrister past the blocker of a sprawling Crawford.
“It was an unbelievable play,” Rust said of Marino’s pass. “I tried to scream as loud as I could, but I’m not sure if he heard me because it was pretty loud in there. He made a real good fake, got his head up and made the pass over to me. It was an easy one.”
Shootout goals by Guentzel and McCann secured victory. Murray stopped two of the three shootout shots he faced.
The Penguins aren’t sure what they will face without their captain.
“He’s obviously, the best player in the world,” Guentzel said. “So if he’s out, it’s going take commitment by everyone to step up. But we’ll have to see what happens.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .