The Pittsburgh Penguins were no slouches on Wednesday, yet the Chicago Blackhawks keep heating up and different players keep rising to the occasion. In tonight’s case, that translated to a 4-1 win in a game that was closer than the score would indicate.
It was also a heck of a ride.
Patrick Kane grabs the biggest headlines with a hat trick in this one, giving him seven goals – including two hat tricks – in his past three games.
He wasn’t the only forward who had a great game, though. Richard Panik bamboozled Evgeni Malkin for a true goal of the year candidate. Nick Schmaltz played a big role in Kane’s hat trick, collecting two impressive assists before No. 88 got an empty-netter.
(Schmaltz is someone teams might need to gameplan for, by the way. He’s now on a five-game point streak with two goals and seven assists.)
Finally, Scott Darling played a huge role in this game not being a nail-biter. He stopped 36 of 37 Penguins shots to spoil the “Marc-Andre Fleury is still here” party.
Sidney Crosby made a ton of great plays, but Darling was game for all of them, only allowing a fantastic Scott Wilson tally. About the only bad news for Chicago was that Artem Anisimov suffered an injury.
The Penguins lose their tiebreaker advantage for the second spot in the Metro after this loss. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks at least give themselves a shot at catching the Minnesota Wild for the Central title.
Whatever the case may be, the Blackhawks are making a serious statement that they’re a legitimate contender in the West, rather than just “hanging on.”
In other words, while the odds might still be against it, you can get away with at least daydreaming about Wednesday being a Stanley Cup Final preview. If such a series happened … let’s hope tonight served as an appetizer for that scenario.
Naturally, there’s a long way to go for that to happen, but both teams looked fantastic tonight.