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Rapid Reaction: Penguins 3, Hawks 2

12/20/2011

PITTSBURGH -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins:

How it happened: The Penguins scored first after an advantageous call in the first period giving them a power play and they never looked back, though the Hawks made a game of it in the third. Chris Kunitz tallied on a mini-breakaway and James Neal and Tyler Kennedy added second period scores to put the game out of reach. The Hawks had a decent amount of shots, but never spent a serious amount of time in the offensive zone until the final 20 minutes when they were already down by three. They were killing penalties for much of the first 40 minutes. The visitors finally broke through when Jonathan Toews scored off the rush early in the third period then Viktor Stalberg finished on a pretty passing play from Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.

What it means: It’s the first time in a while the Hawks didn’t score first and get an early lead, and it affected them the rest of the game, though they do get credit for a great third period. They seemed out of sync on offense playing from behind until an energetic final 20 minutes. Joel Quenneville mixed up the lines after Marcus Kruger was knocked out after taking a high hit in the first period. Jeremy Morin was dropped to the fourth line after struggling early and Stalberg replaced him giving a boost to the offense. If the Hawks had showed the energy in the first two periods they displayed in the third their five-game winning streak may have continued but they go down in a close game.

Kruger hit: Kruger left the game after 20 minutes after sustaining a check to the head by Deryk Engelland. John Scott jumped Engelland, bloodying him while getting an instigator penalty along with a 10-minute misconduct. Engelland’s hit went unpunished though he looked to have left his feet to deliver the high hit. It can still be reviewed by the league and punished after the fact, even though no penalty was called on the play. Kruger actually finished the period but did not come out for the second as the Hawks ruled him out for the night.

What’s next: The Hawks head back to Chicago for a Wednesday game against the Montreal Canadians. It’s the final game before the NHL shutdown for the Christmas holiday. The Hawks will be off until Monday.