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Baby, Let the Games Begin : Blackhawks 3, Penguins 2

Chicago has its first win streak of the season.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blackhawks picked up their second victory in as many games after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday night.

The Derek King era is off to a decent start.

After a scoreless first period, the Blackhawks broke out for a two-goal lead in the second.

First, Jujhar Khaira got his first goal as a Blackhawk and put the team up 1-0 just over two minutes into the middle frame. A beautiful behind-the-net pass from Jonathan Toews found an open Khaira out front for an easy tap-in.

Next, Seth Jones also scored his first goal as a Blackhawk and extended the lead on an absolute snipe with 4:07 left in the period. Credit Kirby Dach with his net-front presence Tristan Jarry had no chance to see that incoming puck.

Calvin de Haan was seemingly injured twice while blocking shots in the second period, the latter of which looked serious as he was helped off the ice. However, de Haan returned both times after being seen shortly by the trainers.

The Penguins had much of the momentum in the back half of the second period, but Blackhawks managed to hold them off and go into the final 20 minutes with a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, the third period started where the second left off with the Penguins just bombarding the Blackhawks with shots. The Blackhawks seemed to back off defensively, allowing the Penguins seemingly unlimited chances.

Eventually those chances ended in the Penguins scoring as Jeff Carter redirected a shot from Jake Guentzel to make it 2-1.

Carter struck again to tie the game 2-2 with 4:17 left, this time on a 2-on-2 rush. Guentzel managed to fight off Connor Murphy just enough to slide the puck across the slot to Carter, who tapped the puck in over a sprawling Fleury.

Regulation ended with the Blackhawks and Penguins deadlocked at 2-2, so to overtime they went.

Although neither team scored in the extra hockey period, it was filled with back-and-forth action between both teams and included a rumble in the goal crease.

Ultimately, Fleury was perfect while Toews and Alex DeBrincat scored in the shootout to secure a 3-2 victory for the Blackhawks.

Notes

  • In the previous game against the Penguins, Fleury allowed four goals in just over 11 minutes. Obviously he fared much better tonight by allowing zero in the entirely of the first period. The team in front of him also helped during the first period: while they ultimately had about the same expected goals as the previous Penguins game (0.71 vs 0.76), the Blackhawks limited those chances to more one-and-dones rather than continued cycle shots.
  • However, the game slipped away from the Blackhawks as it progressed and was especially off the rails in the third period. In the final frame, the Blackhawks were out attempted 34-6, out shot 20-5, and out chanced 25-5. They’ve managed to have a handful of games now where they start well, so now they need to learn how to be a closer.
  • That brings us back to Fleury, who ultimately made 42 saves on 44 shots for a 0.955 save-percentage. He wasn’t particularly flashy this game, but he was a wall when the team needed him most. If he and Kevin Lankinen who has had 0.952, 0.938, and .925 save-percentages in three of his last four games can keep this strong performance going consistently, the situation in net could be the bright spot it was expected prior to the season’s start.
  • Up until the third period when the Penguins took over, the line with DeBrincat, Dach, and Patrick Kane was leading the charge offensively and they had the highest expected goals percentage (46.43) for the team and were three of the top four for individual xGF among forwards (Strome was third overall). Of the Blackhawks 30 shot attempts at 5-on-5, DeBrincat and Dach accounted for a third of them with five each.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about how many fourth-line players have been in the top-nine this season so far, but the bigger issue was also which of those guys were played where. It took a while, but the best option was finally moved to Toews’ line and was rewarded. Khaira isn’t great offensively, but he has historically read plays better than any of the other options.
  • Something else that’s been talked about a lot: Jones. Admittedly, the opinion on him coming into this season was low for most of the SCH staff — thanks to a terrible couple of seasons in Columbus — but he’s been more than fine so far this season. Tonight, Jones was better than fine: he was the type of No. 1 D that the Blackhawks hoped to have acquired. Consistent games like this from him and no one will care about his murky past.
  • Seriously, just watch this clip of Jones being everywhere on the cycle right before his goal. This is an offensive example obviously — because highlights almost always are — but he was just as good on the defensive side for the most part.
  • As good as Jones was, him playing 31:24 is not ideal for a full season same with Connor Murphy at 28:30. Thankfully, Wyatt Kalynuk seems ready to rejoin the team soon so hopefully they’ll be able to play him more than the 8:06 Erik Gustafsson got tonight. Rolling three pairings more naturally would help this team a lot.
  • The scorecard says that De Haan blocked four shots but that is likely undercounted as he blocked about that many in one shift. King joked about it after the game:
  • Ultimately, this was far from a perfect game and showed that the Blackhawks still have a lot to clean up, but it also had some good bright spots that can hopefully continue as they transition during the coaching change. And winning is always more fun than not so I think we’ll all take what we can get for now.

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI) — 42 saves on 44 shots, 0.955 SV%
  2. Seth Jones (CHI) — 1 goal, 31:24 ATOI
  3. Jeff Carter (PIT) — 2 goals

What’s next

The Blackhawks face the Arizona Coyotes Friday night at the United Center for a 7:30 p.m. start.