Blackhawks run win streak against Penguins to 10 games
During their now-completed eight-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and Western Conference favorite Winnipeg Jets.
They won low-scoring nail-biters and high-scoring shootouts.
On Sunday night, they finally ran into the game they couldn’t win.
Dylan Strome broke a third-period tie, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-3 victory at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins have lost the last 10 games they played against the Blackhawks, including both meetings this season. Their last win over Chicago came March 30, 2014.
“Definitely frustrating,” goalie Casey DeSmith said. “Kind of wanted a little bit of revenge tonight in our own building. Just let it slip away.”
With the score tied 3-3 about two minutes into the third period, Patrick Kane made a cross-ice pass to Strome at the left hash marks for a shot past a sprawling DeSmith. The goal came seven seconds after a Penguins penalty expired.
Duncan Keith scored on a shot from the top of the left circle to forge a 3-3 tie late in the second period two seconds after a Chicago power play ended.
On a first-period power play, Chicago pulled to within 2-1 when Kane threaded a perfect pass from the right faceoff dot to Alex DeBrincat at the left dot for a one-timer.
Add it all up, and the Blackhawks essentially went 3 for 3 on the power play. That’s usually too much to overcome no matter which team is on a long winning streak and which team is at the bottom of the conference standings.
“We’ve got opportunities to clear the puck. We don’t get it out. We just didn’t execute,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We made some errors on the penalty kill that cost us tonight, errors that we haven’t made here over this last long stretch that I know we’re better at.”
Compounding matters, the three penalties the Penguins took to send the Blackhawks to the power play took place in or near the offensive zone.
“The stick infractions when they’re 150 feet from your net are ones that are avoidable,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes, when you’re in the heat of the battle and you’re competing on pucks, that’s going to happen on occasion. As long as it’s not something that becomes habit, we’ll live with it.”
The Penguins had chances to answer with power-play goals of their own but could not.
They came into the game on a red-hot, five-game streak with the man-advantage, converting on nine of their previous 13 attempts, but went 0 for 3 Sunday, including 71 seconds of five-on-three time late in the first period.
“It’s frustrating to lose the way we did,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “They didn’t really beat us. We didn’t beat ourselves either, but we had a chance there on the power play to put the game in a really comfortable spot and we didn’t do it. That’s frustrating right now.”
The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Hornqvist converted an Evgeni Malkin shot with a pinpoint snipe from the right faceoff dot, and Jake Guentzel cashed in a rebound after he tipped a Kris Letang shot into goalie Cam Ward’s pads.
The third line combination of Tanner Pearson, Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel had a strong game, with Brassard scoring on a one-timer to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead in the second.
It wasn’t enough, though, to beat the Blackhawks, the team more than any other in the NHL that has the Penguins’ number.
“They still have those guys they won Cups with,” Brassard said. “We have to respect that team. They can beat anyone.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.