After two straight losses, the Chicago Blackhawks made sure to get on the board early and often as they rode the momentum of four first period goals to an emphatic 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Patrick Kane played a huge role for the Blackhawks in the contest, notching two assists, and Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin both scored goals as the Blackhawks ended their road trip on a positive note.
Coming off a tough swing through Florida, the Blackhawks wanted to get off to a hot start in Pittsburgh, and that’s exactly what they did when they scored just three and a half minutes into the game. Kane was the one making the magic happen on the play, as he drove behind the goal and feathered a perfect pass out to the front of the net, where Artemi Panarin hammered home a shot to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks continued to generate scoring chances, but the Penguins started turning the tide. Bryan Rust had a fantastic chance after blowing past Niklas Hjalmarsson, but Corey Crawford made the save and kept the Blackhawks in front.
Eventually the Blackhawks got control back of the pace of the game, and they scored to extend their lead. Nick Schmaltz grabbed the puck behind the net, skated into an open position, and found a wide open Richard Panik in the slot for a one-timer goal and a 2-0 lead.
In the final minute of the period, the Blackahwks added two more goals to make their lead even bigger. Kane deflected a pass at center ice onto the stick of Marcus Kruger, and the Swedish center drove hard into the zone and rifled a low shot just under Marc Andre-Fleury’s blocker to put the Blackhawks in front by a 3-0 margin.
Just 40 seconds later, the Blackhawks scored again. With their fifth odd-man rush of the period, the Blackhawks completely burned the Penguins as Ryan Hartman flipped a saucer pass across the ice that Marian Hossa was able to pound into the back of the cage to extend the Chicago lead to a staggering four goals after 20 minutes of action.
The Penguins slowly tried to push their way back into the game, but the Blackhawks rebuffed every push in the second period. A late penalty to John Hayden gave Pittsburgh some high-quality chances, but good backchecking by Hossa and some great saves from Crawford helped keep the lead at four goals after two periods of play.
Early in the third period, the Blackhawks put another goal on the board, as Tanner Kero notched his third point as a member of the second line with a breakaway goal that made it a 5-0 game. The Penguins were able to muster some measure of revenge as they scored on a Bryan Rust shot to cut the lead to 5-1, but it was too little, too late as the Blackhawks grabbed the two points and moved ahead of the Penguins in the President’s Trophy race.
The Blackhawks will face another one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference on Friday night when they welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets to the United Center for their penultimate home game of the season.