CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks’ top forwards came through in regulation, and then again in the shootout.
Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell scored in regulation and Patrick Kane had the only goal in the tiebreaker to lift Chicago to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
“We’re skating well, that’s the difference out there,” Sharp said. “We’re moving our feet and coming up with a lot of pucks.”
The Blackhawks played their third straight game without coach Joel Quenneville, who is recovering from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an ulcer. Assistant coach Mike Haviland was in charge in Quenneville’s absence.
Kane, Sharp and Jonathan Toews, who skated together again on Sunday as the Blackhawks No. 1 line, had Chicago’s best chances througout the contest.
“There’s a lot of skill on that line,” Kane said. “We all try and make plays and set up different chances. All of us feel we can be better every game.”
Kane connected in the third round of the shootout after Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Toews and Sharp. Chicago’s Corey Crawford blocked shots by Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy after Pascal Dupuis hit the post on the Penguins’ first attempt.
Crawford had 24 saves for Chicago.
Matt Cooke had a short-handed goal for Pittsburgh, and Brett Sterling fired in a rebound from the edge of the crease with 3:18 left in the third period to tie it 2-2. Fleury finished with 29 saves, including a point-blank glove save on a shot by Chicago’s Michael Frolik.
“We’ve got to be confident we can find a way to pull it out,” Toews said. “Tonight we did. You’re going to find mistakes throughout a game, but you have to find a way to win.
The Penguins played without nine injured players, including star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby hasn’t played since Jan. 5 due to a concussion and Malkin is recovering from knee surgery.
“Our team stayed with it and kept going,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We knew we were going to have to battle one out. … We kept playing and we got the (late) goal and we’ll take the point.”
In overtime, Pittsburgh centre Jordan Staal was hit in the neck by a shot by Letang. The team issued no statement on his condition.
“They kind of took it to us in the first half of the game,” Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams said. “But I thought after we got the short-handed goal we played a lot better and put a little more pressure on them. But it would have been nice to get two points.”
Sharp scored the only goal of the first period at 10:07 as Chicago’s top line of Sharp, Toews and Kane used a series of quick passes to exploit Pittsburgh’s coverage breakdown. Sharp fired in his team-leading 31st goal—five shy of his career best set in 2007-08—on a one-time shot from the slot after taking a feed from Toews.
Cooke’s short-handed goal with 6:08 left in the second period tied it 1-1. Cooke completed a 2-on-1 break by taking Maxime Talbot’s feed and firing it past Crawford after Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook had sprawled to try to break up the pass.
Bryan Bickell’s screened goal 1:09 into the third period put Chicago ahead 2-1. He surprised Fleury with a floating 45-foot wrist shot from the left boards as Penguins defenceman Zbynek Michalek apparently blocked Fleury’s view.
Crawford stopped a shot by Kennedy late in the third, but the Blackhawks were unable to clear the loose puck and Sterling got the tying goal into an open net.
“It was a gutsy effort,” Haviland added. “I’m not happy giving up one late in the third, but we had a great shift right after.”
NOTES: Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that Quenneville’s condition was brought on by aspirin and that he is resting at home following his release on Saturday from a the hospital. No date has been set for the coach’s return. … Chicago C Ryan Johnson returned after missing three games with a concussion. … Pittsburgh forward Nick Johnson missed his first game with an upper-body injury. … The crowd of 22,195 was the Blackhawks’ largest this season.