Kruger KO’d, A Stalberg Period, A 3-2 Penguins Win – And the Blackhawks streak ends at 5

By Jon Fromi

The Chicago Blackhawks spotted Pittsburgh a three goal advantage over the first 40 minutes Tuesday night in the Consol Energy Center. A furious third period charge made for a fun finish, but the Penguins held on to hand the Blackhawks their first regulation loss of the month by the score of 3-2.

It was a rough and tumble contest that turned in a playoff-type atmosphere. Pittsburgh used a physical play to pave the way for the game’s first goal in the ninth minute of action.

Deryk Engelland attempted to remove Marcus Kruger’s head, which somehow went unpenalized save for John Scott jumping in and throwing down. As a result, Scott was assessed the instigator penalty.  On the resulting power play, just over a minute later, the Penguins scored on a wrist shot by Chris Kunitz, assisted by Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen.

Kruger appeared to be okay and finished the first period, but did not return for the second and third.  Pittsburgh went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks saw the deficit grow to three goals in the middle frame, with Chicago on their heels on the penalty kill for eight minutes of the second. Malkin and Niskanen picked up their second assists on the night when James Neal’s shot went in off the post just 2:45 in.

Malkin also helped set up Tyler Kennedy’s tally with 3:26 left in the period. Malkin made the pass out of his zone to Ben Lovejoy, who took it around the net and dumped it in front of Ray Emery for Kennedy to knock home for a 3-0 Penguins lead.

Going into the second intermission, the ‘Hawks were down a forward and playing sloppy, penalty-riddled hockey.  Instead of packing it in for the final 20 minutes, Chicago reached back and came out for the third roaring like Hulk Hogan coming out of a sleeper hold.

Joel Quenneville sent out Patrick Kane between Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg, who had replaced rookie Jeremy Morin on the first line in the second period. It didn’t take long to see the move of Stalberg back onto a scoring line pay off.

Stalberg took control of a loose puck in the Blackhawks zone, found Jonathan Toews heading up the ice, and made a beeline for the Pittsburgh net. The pass intended for Stalberg found Miskanen’s stick, but Stalberg managed to nudge that stick and still get the puck in the net. Toews was credited with the goal and the lead was cut to two just 49 seconds into the third period.

Stalberg got a goal to call his own after an outstanding display of puck movement in the seventh minute. Brent Seabrook tossed the puck to Hossa at center ice, and he and Kane ran a back and forth weave down the ice, ending when Kane found Stalberg cutting to the net. Stalberg made good on the open net and with 13:48 to play, Chicago had sliced the deficit to 3-2.

The rest of the game was a tightly contested affair with big opportunities on both sides turned away by Emery and Marc-Andre Fleury. The only penalty of the period came when Neal tripped Kane coming into the Pittsburgh zone with 1:29 left. Emery was pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Blackhawks couldn’t complete the comeback.

Thoughts

-If Stalberg was out to make a case for his spot on the first line occupied by Morin these last two games, mission accomplished. He was a plus-two for the night with two points. He also hit the post twice in the third period on the way to a team-high nine shots on the game.

Morin, after turning in a decent if not noteworthy performance Sunday against Calgary, looked out of place on the top line in Pittsburgh. For the time being, Stalberg’s earned his spot in the top-six back.

-Even though it created the power play that led to a goal, I have to give a huge GOOD FOR JOHN SCOTT on the aftermath of Engelland’s cheap shot. We finally see Scott go in and whale on a guy who took a run at a smaller, defenseless teammate. If dropping the gloves cost the ‘Hawks a game after a stretch of nine wins in eleven games, so be it. As Kenny Rogers once crooned, “Sometimes you’ve got to fight when you’re a man.”

-It sounded like Kruger was on the bench for part of the second period. No one was home, however. It doesn’t appear that he’ll be available Wednesday. Of course, the ‘Hawks rolled the dice on Brent Seabrook after a big hit on Sunday, so we may have to wait and see if a call goes out to Rockford.

-Who gets that call? Ben Smith knows the way down I-90 by now, but why not get Brandon Pirri into the lineup? Of course, if Kane occupies the middle on the second line again, a wing may be more in demand.

-In the second intermission, Eddie Olczyk and Keith Jones debated whether Quenneville should pull Emery in favor of Corey Crawford. Jones was for leaving him in, while Olczyk was for inserting Crawford and getting ready for Wednesday’s game with Montreal…really? Give up after 40 minutes? I was glad to see Emery out on the ice to open the third, and he helped keep his team in the game.

-I don’t think anyone should be happy about the first two periods, but some small solace has to be taken from the effort in the final 20 minutes. If the Blackhawks could muster that intensity for even 40-45 minutes a night, not many teams could keep up.

-It’s too bad there is no return match with the Penguins at the United Center. That’s just one more advantage to the realignment schedule that guarantees a home and home with every team.

Jon Fromi

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11 Responses to Kruger KO’d, A Stalberg Period, A 3-2 Penguins Win – And the Blackhawks streak ends at 5

  1. came roaring back “like Hulk Hogan out of a sleeper hold!” – Jon, what a perfect way to describe the third period.

    Totally agree on Scott jumping in – i could have cared less if Pitt scored 3 goals – nice to see someone besides Shanahan make a nozzle pay. Scott didn’t exactly let up when the linesmen stepped in either – normally he quits when he knows he’s done his job. I think he would have liked to knock Engelland out.

    • Thanks, Rich…wish we could have dropped the leg on the Penguins, alas…

      Looks like Pirri’s gonna be in the lineup for the ‘Hawks. I’ll miss seeing him in Rockford tonight, but damn, the kid deserves the shot.

      Hopefully the team feeds off this incident and launches another winning streak starting tonight. Shanahan was light on Bourque (and on Lucic the same day) because the recipients “suffered no apparent injury”. What’s Engelland going to get now that Kruger is missing a game due by all reports to a concussion?

      Four games? More?

  2. Looks like you were right about Pirri getting the call-up.

    About Seabrook- I don’t think it’s really fair to say that the Hawks organization is playing fast and loose with his health. He went through the proper protocols apparently, and, by all accounts, he is fine. He was not knocked out on the play. In the replays, you can see his eyes are open, and he has stated that he was not knocked out and remembers the whole thing as well. I have to believe that the Hawks brass took all the necessary steps to make sure he was fine before allowing him to play.

    Also, although I didn’t agree with Edzo’s suggestion of replacing Emery with Crawford, I think it’s a little harsh to characterize such a move as giving up. Crawford is still a serviceable starter in this league who has found his way into a rut. He’s no Turco…

    • I guess my Seabrook comment is partially in response to the previous Seabrook post. I’m assuming you’re working along the same train of thought, which could be a stretch…

      • I like that I could even be accused of working up a whole train of thought, lol.

        I’m guessing this means that Kane is still a wing tonight. Pirri is deserving of a call-up, hopefully he can take advantage of an unfortunate situation and put up some points.

        Perhaps I was a bit overly leery toward the team docs. However, the fact remains that this same staff failed to take Seabs off the ice after the Torres hit. It looks like they are being careful with Kruger as well. Good thing because he got hit by Engelland and his head made contact with the boards as well.

        The “giving up” is not a knock on Crawford; it looks like he is starting tonight and I think he should. Edzo’s reasoning was that the ‘Hawks should put Crawford in and begin preparing for Montreal. I took that as a call to close the book on the current game.

        I thought it was premature that we begin looking ahead to Wednesday instead of getting back into Tuesday’s game. That’s what irked me. It wasn’t a slam on Crawford. It just seemed that Olcyzk was singing “Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over” a little early.

        I think we’ll see a rested and motivated Crawford in net tonight.

        • Let’s hope Crawford has a great game. Nothing against Emery (his is a great story!), but I feel bad for Corey.

          I really like all the Icehog coverage on TTMI. Since you’re more familiar with Pirri than the rest of us, what do you think we can expect tonight? He had the one game here at the start of the season, and, in my opinion, he looked decent. However, after getting sent down right away, do you think there is a chance he tries to do too much tonight in his return?

          • Pirri has had two NHL games, so he’s been on the stage before. He’s playing in a very confident fashion right now, much like he was last spring. He has three straight multiple-point games and led the IceHogs with 31 points.

            Pirri isn’t the defender Kruger is, though like Kruger he will get out muscled up in the NHL right now. He’ll take his shots at the net, though. He showed a lot of offense in the preseason and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get his first NHL goal tonight if he lines up between Hossa and Sharp.

            He still has work to do on his game in Rockford, in my opinion, but he should get a good kick of the tires in the next few games.

    • Lisa, I guess the primary question I’d ask Blackhawks doctors if I had a chance (which no one does) is if there was enough concern for Seabrook’s state of health (potential concussion) immediately following the hit that they kept him out of the rest of Sunday’s game, why did they allow him to get on a plane less than 24 hours later? I believe Seabrook passed their precautionary tests as well. But obviously they had some further reason to be concerned or they wouldn’t have kept him out. Keep in mind, this is the same organization and medical staff that scraped Martin Havlat off the ice in the 2009 conference finals after the Kronwall hit and put him back on the ice less than 48 hours later in Detroit. Seabrook said all the right things, but the fact remains, he’s had two known concussions in 18 months and more going back further. He’s a huge part of the team who you just made a huge, long-term commitment to. Its December and you’re the best team in the league. Why not give him the two days to rest and make sure no symptoms pop up or are aggravated by the quick turnaround, flight or an innocent hit in Pittsburgh. I stand by my point of view. Its reckless on their behalf. I expect Seabrook would want to play. But the decision shouldn’t completely fall into his hands.

      • That Kronwall hit…

        Very valid points, Chris. I might be naive in thinking that they would not play him (or even let him fly) if there was any possibility of a problem. I’d like to think that they are just as aware as you or I that it’s a game against a non-conference opponent in Dec, they just made a long-term contractual agreement with him, etc. Who knows though?

        Either way, seeing him get hit scares the crap out of me…

        • It’s a long season. And he’s still very young, hopefully, in his career. You just hope the best for him and that careful decisions are being made for Seabrook and his health long-term. That’s all.

  3. Supposed to read: That Kronwall hit… shudder.

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