By Brad Vandenberk
With over 40 family and friends attending the Consol Energy Center, Brandon Saad better hope his game is better than his outing in Ottawa where he posted a minus-3. Sunday was Saad’s first regular season game in his hometown of Pittsburgh since turning pro with the Chicago Blackhawks.
This recent Eastern Conference road trip has not been kind to these Hawks going a disappointing 0-2. The return to the scene of the Cup win was not so eventful being manhandled 3-0. Then to Canada‘s capital to be embarrassed against one of the conference’s worst. Now to complete the trip it’s a Sidney Crosby versus Jonathan Toews match up.
The last time these two teams played was in the confines of a snowy Soldier Field. The Hawks were victorious, winning 5-1. Matt Carey made his Hawks debut on Friday in Ottawa. The college star went 7/9 on the faceoff dot, but did tip a goal right past his own goalie, Antti Raanta.
Teuvo Teravainen was back in the lineup and was excited to possibly get the chance to line up across from Crosby. He was a scratch in Ottawa with Coach Q wanting him to shoot more and just play. Bryan Bickell was also cautiously scratched for this one with the Joel mentioning that if this was a playoff affair then it would be a different story. Corey Crawford was back between the pipes for the visitors. Marc Andre Fleury was in net for the Pens. Michal Rozsival, Matt Carey, David Rundblad and Jeremy Morin also sat for this one.
The Hawks started the pressure early with Andrew Shaw breaking in and hitting iron before bowling over Fleury sending the net off. Crawford needs to be sharp at his end with the Penguins coming in waves. Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig run into one another at center ice causing a turnover the other way, again Crawford makes the save. Teravainen gets his first NHL shot on net with Peter Regin almost burying the rebound. Penguins James Neal and Beau Bennett break in on a 2 on 1 after Brent Seabrook was knocked down. Neal elects to keep the puck and beats Crawford making it 1-0. Just 21 seconds later Lee Stempniak walks across the blue line and shoots over a sprawling Johnny Oduya beating Crawford once again making it 2-0 Pens. Is this déjà vu from Friday’s game in Ottawa? Craig Adams begins to start hitting Hawks players, 3 on one shift to be exact. He takes out Oduya hard along the boards. Kruger gets a great chance to put the Hawks on the board walking out of the corner and trying to knock in his own rebound past Fleury also knock him in the crease. Crawford is called on once again to make some point blank saves with the Hawks getting sloppy in their own end. With 34 seconds left in the period Deryk Engelland takes a slashing call. When the horn blows Shaw and Robert Bortuzzo exchange a few punches. The Pens lead in the shots category 8-6, but the Hawks will get 1:24 of power play time to open the second period.
The power play is abysmal like most these past few games. Even trying to enter the zone seems troublesome. The sloppiness continues with Michal Handzus losing a puck in his feet, not just once, but twice. Duncan Keith fires a shot on net trying to break Fleury. The Penguins get their first power play when Patrick Sharp high sticks Crosby in the face. Although the Pens captain was looking for blood, it remained a 2 minute minor. The Hawks do a great job killing the man advantage and just as Sharp is about to enter the ice, Marian Hossa slashes the stick out of Jayson Megna’s hands. Crawford works hard during the penalty kill even adjusting to stop a redirection. Teravainen comes from absolutely no where flying into the zone and testing Fleury with a shot. Finally the Hawks get one on the board. Pittsburgh has trouble clearing and Sheldon Brookbank fires a high shot on net beating the screened Fleury. Shaw was the one on the top of the blue paint. Crosby jumps off the bench to get a point blank chance on Crawford but the net minder is up to the challenge. Really Scary moment at the 6:40 mark of the period, Brooks Orpik puts a questionable hit on Jonathan Toews who is sent to the ice hard. He gets up favouring his left shoulder/arm and heads to the Hawks dressing room after a few seconds on the bench. Teravainen puts his 3rd shot on net and Kris Versteeg almost buries the rebound. The period ends with the Pens leading the Hawks 19-17 in shots.
As expected, Toews did not take the ice for the beginning of the 3rd and it was later announced he was done for the game with an upper body injury. On the surface this could be a bad thing but then again the Hawks don’t play again until Thursday. The Hawks wanted to win this one for their captain. You could tell right off the period’s faceoff. The fourth line was leaned on to do a bulk of the work during this final frame with some line juggling need in the absence of Toews. Teravainen gets another chance on net gaining confidence by the shift. Crawford continued his dominate play. Hawks are relentless trying to tie this game up. The defensemen begin to pinch and try and get the tying goal forgetting that they are playing the best in the game. It burns them on one occasion when Crosby and Kunitz head in on a 2 on 1 with Crawford making 2 great saves. Kruger meets Fleruy behind the net and passes the puck out front and Smith gets a great chance. Regin is very noticeable tonight with an aggressive forecheck. Seabrook is now the victim of another Hawks D man pinch and Crosby heads back with Stempniak on another 2 on 1. Keith lies out but the gold medallist beats Crawford high giving the Pens a 3-1 lead. Hawks pull Crawford with just over a minute remaining. Neal gets a chance on the empty net but the shot goes wide. Crosby also gets a chance at the open net and makes it count giving the Hawks a 4-1 loss.
Saad Toews Hossa
Sharp Handzus Shaw
Versteeg Teravainen Regin
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Pens narrowly outshot the Hawks 27-26.
-Hawks go 0/1 on the power play with Pens going 0/2.
-Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 25:07, Seabrook was next with 24:16.
-Before Toews left he was 7/9 in the faceoff circle Handzus 4/10, Teravainnen 4/11, Kruger 2/7.
-Post game it was noted that Toews is day to day and I doesn’t seem to be serious.
-Handzus did not see a shift for the entire 3rd Period.
-Hawks failed to gain any points on their first 3 game losing streak of the season. Also remained in 3rd place in the Central Division still 1 point behind the Avalanche.
-Hawks now have a few days off before they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.