PITTSBURGH — Two points are two points, a four-game win streak is a four-game win streak, and the Blackhawks were perfectly happy to get out of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night with a victory over a surging Penguins team. The fact that the 3-2 victory came in overtime doesn’t even matter, because Pittsburgh is in the Eastern Conference. That point the Hawks gave away is meaningless.
That said, the Hawks probably shouldn’t have had to go to overtime. Shouldn’t have needed Artemi Panarin’s second goal of the game to get the win. Shouldn’t have had to lean on Corey Crawford to make five big saves in the frantic 3-on-3 session. Shouldn’t have had to watch Jonathan Toews rush off the ice and into the dressing room after getting a stick to the face (he’s fine).
The Hawks led 2-0 entering the third period in this one. And while there’s no real shame in giving up a pair of goals to a desperate and talented Penguins squad, it’s hardly the first time the Hawks have struggled to hold a lead. The league’s ultimate closers over the past few seasons have had a little more trouble closing the door on the road this season, including a come-from-ahead loss at Los Angeles, and a messy 7-5 win at Arizona.
“You know they’re going to press,” Joel Quenneville said. “They have talented guys, you know they’re going to get chances. … I still like the way we play with leads, but you expect a push from the other team. They’re gambling, their ‘D’ are coming, and they’re skilled across the board with five guys coming. [But] if you check well, you get better opportunities.”
The Hawks’ 2-0 lead was tenuous, anyway. Both goals came in the second period, with Panarin one-timing a Patrick Kane pass on a 2-on-1, and Toews knocking in a Brent Seabrook shot from the point. But the Penguins were the aggressors throughout that period, firing 14 shots at Crawford. David Perron shot wide on a breakaway, Sidney Crosby went wide on a chip-in, and the Penguins came up empty on a host of other golden chances as the Hawks committed turnover after turnover.
The Penguins found life early in the third, when Crosby beat Crawford with a tremendous wrist shot on the far side at 5:57. On the very next shift, Crosby hit the post, and the push was on. Phil Kessel also hit a post soon after and the Hawks spent nearly the entire period on their heels, before Kris Letang tied it up at 17:10 with a blast that ticked off of Kane and through Artem Anisimov’s legs before sneaking past Crawford.
As it often is, 3-on-3 overtime was wild, with both goalies making huge stops, the best of which was Fleury on Marian Hossa on the doorstep. Crawford made five of his own and held firm until Panarin won it off another Kane assist with 1:13 left in the terrifically entertaining 3-on-3 session.
It was two points. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
“Every game is different, and I think we just have to be confident and be able to make a play,” Duncan Keith said. “We want to think defense. We want to check, make them make mistakes in the third. [But] at the end of the day, we got the win and that’s what we wanted.”