Surging Blackhawks Beat Penguins 4-1
The Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on March 1st in the first meeting this season of the last two Stanley Cup champions. The defending champion Penguins had the misfortune of facing a Blackhawks team that was 9-1 in February. Both teams came into the contest in second place in their divisions.
While the Penguins are an outstanding 25-4-3 at home, they are very average on the road, as in 13-11-5 coming into this game. After a scoreless first period, Chicago got on the board with a Patrick Kane goal at 8:49 in the second. Scott Wilson tied it up with his seventh goal of the season at the 17 minute mark, but Richard Panik gave the Blackhawks the lead with his 17th goal of the season at 19:36. The 26 year old Panik has 17 assists to go along with those 17 goals, and is emerging as a valuable weapon in the Chicago arsenal. This has been the best of his five seasons in the NHL; he long ago surpassed his previous scoring highs of 11 goals and six assists with Toronto in the 2014-15 season.
The Blackhawks held the Penguins scoreless in the third period. Patrick Kane scored his second goal of the game at 16:52, and then added an empty netter with less than a minute remaining for his 27th goal of the season, and second hat trick in his last three games. Backup goalie Scott Darling started for the second game in a row for Corey Crawford who has been out with an illness. Darling didn’t miss a beat, making 36 saves on the way to his fourth straight victory. Darling’s record improved to 16-5-2 with a goals against average of 2.13 and a save percentage of .931. There’s not much of a drop off between Darling and Crawford; Corey is 24-13-3 with a 2.58 and .917. The value of an excellent backup goalie for a contender cannot be overstated.
The Blackhawks and Penguins will face off against each other in Pittsburgh on March 29th.