CHICAGO – As long as there are games left in the regular season and they aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks believe their season is still very much alive.
It took a thrilling shootout on Sunday afternoon in front of 22,195 at the United Center to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in NBC's "Game of the Week," but it was a huge two points just the same for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Patrick Kane and Hawks goalie Corey Crawford combined to win it in the shootout, as Kane scored Chicago's goal and Crawford stopped all three Penguins attempts.
Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp also scored goals for the Blackhawks (30-23-6), while Matt Cooke and Brett Starling scored for the Penguins (36-19-5) – who are without injured stars Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee).
Starling's goal, with just 3:18 left in regulation, tied it 2-2 and sent the game to overtime. After a shot by Tyler Kennedy from the right circle, Starling scooped the loose puck near the blue paint and scored.
During an exciting overtime filled with scoring chances, both teams failed to capitalize on a couple of great opportunities to end it. First, Kennedy lifted a shot over the goal with a lot of net open to keep the Hawks in the game. Not long after, Chicago's Duncan Keith couldn't handle a great feed alone in the left circle to nix that play.
Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis both missed in the first round of the shootout, followed by misses from Sharp and Kris Letang in the second round. That set up Kane, who deked Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and beat him to the forehand before Crawford stopped Kennedy to win it.
Sharp, who scored twice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, gave the Hawks another early lead against the Penguins. He potted his 31st goal of the season on a one-timer set up by a pretty pass by Toews midway through the first period to put Chicago up 1-0.
It took Pittsburgh awhile to tie it up, but Cooke got the job done by capping off a beautifully-executed 2-on-1 shorthanded rush with 6:08 left in the second period to knot it 1-1 heading into the second intermission.
Max Talbot fed a perfect cross-ice pass to Cooke, who redirected it past Crawford.
Being no strangers to close games in the third, the Hawks quickly jumped back on top thanks to Bickell's 14th goal just 1:09 into the final period. He wristed a long shot from above the left circle and close to the boards that got over Fleury’s trapper and under the crossbar for a 2-1 Chicago lead.
1 - 0 CHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CHI