Pitt pulls away from Robert Morris 71-57
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — A double-digit deficit on the road. A capacity crowd in full throat. Pittsburgh has been there plenty over last two-plus years. And faltered each and every time.
For once, the Panthers pushed back, a small sign of growth for a program hoping to take another step toward respectability in head coach Jeff Capel’s second season.
Trey McGowens scored 25 points and Terrell Brown added eight points, nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks as Pitt spoiled the unveiling of Robert Morris’ sparkling UPMC Events Center in a 71-57 win on Tuesday night. Three days after getting upset at home by Nicholls State, the Panthers (2-1) responded by snapping a 24-game road losing streak that stretched back nearly three years.
The Colonials (0-3) used an 18-0 run in the first half to take an 11-point lead. Six-plus years after upsetting defending national champion Kentucky in a National Invitational Tournament game at the since-demolished Sewall Center, Robert Morris again staggered a Power Five conference team.
The Panthers, however, recovered behind McGowens’ relentlessness and the 6-foot-10 Brown’s dominance in the lane as Pitt earned its first true road victory since beating Boston College on Feb. 8, 2017.
“When they made their run, it was loud, we could have folded,” Capel said. “We have to understand the importance of each day. We are not a program and we don’t have the type of talent where you can just show up.”
A lesson the Panthers learned painfully against Nicholls State, a game in which Pitt led for just 35 seconds against a team picked to finish 11th in the Southland Conference. The Colonials, perennial contenders in the Northeastern Conference under coach Andy Toole, represented a bit of a step up in class. Throw in the debut of their new $45 million, 4,000-seat gym — a building that’s a testament to both the program Toole has built and the rapid expansion at the school of more than 5,000 students located 20 miles west of Pitt’s Oakland campus — and Robert Morris had all the intangibles required to beat the Panthers for the first time in 31 meetings.
The Colonials just didn’t have the tools necessary to slow down McGowens or overcome Brown’s size.
“Terrell Brown was really the difference in the game,” Toole said. “His ability to protect the rim, and make it hard for our guys to finish around the basket had a huge impact on us offensively.”
Josh Williams led Robert Morris with 12 points, Jalen Hawkins added 11 off the bench and Yannis Mendy had 10 points and six rebounds, but the Colonials — who didn’t have a player over 6-feet-8 — couldn’t keep pace over the final 20 minutes. Pitt, which scrambled back from the early hole to tie it at halftime, opened the second half with a 22-10 surge that broke it open.
The Panthers outrebounded Robert Morris 39-27, dominated Robert Morris in second-chance points (14-2) and kept the Colonials off the free throw line. Robert Morris didn’t even attempt a free throw in the second half and finished with just six for the game. McGowens, by comparison, made 8 of 10 at the line after getting to the stripe just nine times total over his first two games.
“I was just letting it come to me,” McGowens said.
PACKED HOUSE, NEW DAY?
Toole hopes the response to the debut of the Colonials’ glittering new venue — particularly from a raucous student section — is a sign of things to come. Robert Morris has averaged 20 wins a season over the last 12 years but all that success didn’t necessarily translate to a rowdy atmosphere at the Sewall Center. He thinks that can change going forward.
“I think this could become a great home court for us if we can get the campus and community support that I think these guys deserve,” Toole said. “It was a fun environment for them to come and cheer and be connected as a university community. I think that’s something to build upon. There’s a great source of pride being able to be in this building finally.”
Pitt: The Panthers need to find some sort of identity on offense if they’re going to take another step forward in coach Jeff Capel’s second season. Through three games, Pitt has relied heavily on McGowens and Xavier Johnson getting to the basket. When they’re either finishing at the rim or getting fouled, the Panthers are competitive. When they’re not — as they weren’t against Nicholls State — Pitt will struggle to generate offense.
Robert Morris: The Colonials will have a chance to make some noise in the NEC. Picked to finish fifth, Robert Morris should be plenty battle-tested thanks to a nonconference schedule that includes games against Marquette and UNLV before league play begins.
Pitt: Faces longtime rival West Virginia for the 129th time on Friday when the Mountaineers visit the Petersen Events Center.
Robert Morris: Plays Howard on Friday night in Toledo, Ohio as part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Invitational.
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Kakko scores 2, lifts Rangers past Penguins 3-2 in OT
By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Kaapo Kakko likes the way his game is improving.
The 18-year-old Finnish rookie scored his second goal of the night 2:36 into overtime to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
“It’s getting better,” Kakko said. “I guess it’s always good when you score a couple of goals.”
Adam Fox had a goal in regulation and set up Kakko’s winner as New York recovered after blowing a two-goal lead and improved to 5-1-1 in its last seven games. Alexandar Georgiev finished with 30 saves.
Kakko also scored in regulation and had a shootout goal in the Rangers’ 6-5 loss to Florida on Sunday. New York coach David Quinn has noticed a difference in Kakko as he’s gained some confidence.
“Just talking to him, the way he walks around now, there’s just a whole new level of swagger to him,” Quinn said of the second overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. “There’s a comfort level that I think he’s attaining and you can see it in his face. There’s a lot more smiling and a lot more swagger.”
In the extra period, Fox brought the puck up the left side, skated toward the middle and sent a pass to the left doorstep, where Kakko redirected the puck past Penguins goalie Matt Murray for his sixth of the season.
“First couple of minutes were so hard for us, then we had the puck and a great pass by Foxy,” Kakko said. “That was easy for me. … It’s always so fun scoring in overtime, I think everybody likes it. A good game.”
Justin Schultz and Jared McCann scored for the short-handed Penguins, who earned at least a point for the sixth time in seven games (4-1-2). Murray, making his seventh straight start and 15th in 18 games this season, stopped 24 shots.
The Penguins were without star center Sidney Crosby due to a lower body injury, as well as defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist.
With the score tied 2-all, both teams had chances in the third, with Georgiev and Murray making great stops on both ends. The Rangers went on their second power play with 4:10 left but managed just one shot on goal as Pittsburgh killed off its 16th straight penalty and 22nd in the last 23.
In the closing seconds, Brian Dumoulin had a shot blocked by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba and his follow was stopped by Georgiev to send the game to overtime.
The Penguins trailed 2-0 after getting outshot 11-8 in the first period. It marked the 12th time in 17 games Pittsburgh gave up the first goal of the game.
“We weren’t ready to play, they were ready to play and they outplayed us in the first period,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I give our guys a lot of credit for fighting back, but it’s hard to play if you’re in a two-goal deficit. It’s hard to climb out of it. … For me the lesson learned is we’ve got to play a full 60 (minutes).”
Schultz got Pittsburgh on the scoreboard at 1:13 on the team’s second shot of the period. He took a pass from Evgeni Malkin, skated through the left circle and fired the puck past Georgiev for his second.
The Penguins tied it with 7:27 left in the second as Dominik Simon mishit the puck off his own skate and got it to McCann, who fired it past Georgiev for his sixth. That ended Pittsburgh’s 11-game drought without a power-play goal, and snapped an 0-for-28 skid with the man advantage.
Pittsburgh, which has been outscored 11-9 in the first period, has 28 goals in the second — one behind Washington for most in the middle period.
The Rangers grabbed the lead in the first when a streaking Kakko took a pass from Brendan Lemieux, went forehand to backhand and put the puck past Murray from the right side at 6:42.
New York had a 9-1 advantage in shots over the first 7 1/2 minutes, but had only one more shot on goal until Fox got a cross-ice pass from Artemi Panarin and beat Murray top shelf from the right circle for his third with 9.3 seconds left.
NOTES: Pittsburgh came back from a multiple-goal deficit for the fourth straight game, but is 2-1-1 in that stretch. … Malkin has points in four straight games (one goal, five assists) since returning from an 11-game absence due to injury. … McCann extended his point streak to four games, with two goals and four assists in that stretch. … As part of Veterans Night, the Rangers wore customized jerseys and had camouflage tape on their sticks during warmups. The jerseys and sticks will be auctioned off to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. … Fox extended his point streak to five games, with two goals and six assists. … Panarin extended his point streak to nine games, tying a career high. He has nine assists and 13 points in that stretch.
Penguins: At New Jersey on Friday night before playing five of the next six at home.
Rangers: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night to open a two-game trip to Florida.
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Injured Penguins star Sidney Crosby to miss Rangers game
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Penguins star Sidney Crosby will miss Tuesday night’s game against the Rangers because of an undisclosed injury.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Monday that Crosby will not travel with the club to New York. The Penguins also play Friday at New Jersey, but Sullivan did not explicitly say Crosby would miss both games.
The two-time MVP left a 3-2 shootout win over Chicago on Saturday night in the third period. Crosby got tangled up with Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson and moments later took a shot from Gustafsson that smacked off his right foot. He then headed to the locker room.
Sullivan said Crosby will continue to be evaluated but gave no timetable for a return. The 32-year-old Crosby has five goals and 12 assists in 17 games this season. The Penguins are also missing injured forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Kris Letgan.
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Steelers defense leads way in 17-12 win over Rams
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Steelers defense spoiled Aaron Donald’s homecoming and derailed the Los Angeles Rams’ momentum in the process.
The Steelers forced four turnovers — including a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick — in an ugly 17-12 victory on Sunday that pushed their winning streak to four games and dealt the Rams’ chances of chasing down Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West a serious blow.
Donald, a Pittsburgh native, sacked the Steelers’ Mason Rudolph for a safety in his first appearance in his hometown since the Rams took him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Linebacker Dante Fowler scored Los Angeles’ lone touchdown on a 26-yard fumble return on the second snap of the game. But the Rams’ offense did little against a Steelers defense that has become the team’s identity after losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending right elbow injury in Week 2.
Jared Goff completed 22 of 40 passes for 243 yards, none of them to leading receiver Cooper Kupp. The Rams (5-4) converted just 1 of 14 third downs and came up empty on a pair of last-gasp drives in the final two minutes. Goff’s fourth-down heave to the end zone intended for Josh Reynolds fell incomplete with 1:25 to go. Los Angeles got the ball back with 59 seconds to play but Goff’s pass to Robert Woods was tipped.
Fitzpatrick ran underneath it for the game-sealing interception and seventh takeaway since the Steelers acquired him from Miami in September for a 2020 first-round pick.
At the moment, it looks like draft capital well spent.
Rudolph completed 22 of 38 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown, stats that would have been considerably better if not for a handful of drops that prevented the Steelers (5-4) from gaining any sort of traction for long stretches.
Rudolph became the ninth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw a touchdown in each of his first seven games when he found James Washington for a 3-yard score in the first quarter, but the Steelers once again relied on their defense to move over .500 for the first time this season.
The Steelers managed just 15 turnovers in 2018. They have produced 26 through nine games in 2019, helping them stay afloat following a 1-4 start while Rudolph and the offense searches for solid footing.
WHAT THE HEKKER?
Los Angeles coach Sean McVay is known for his innovative thinking, but his aggressiveness nearly cost the Rams in the third quarter. Los Angeles was facing fourth-and-1 at Rams 29 trailing 14-7.
The Rams lined up to punt before fanning out, with Hekker moving up into the shotgun formation. Hekker, who had a 23-yard completion earlier in the season and came in 12 of 20 for 179 yards with a touchdown in his career, was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off by Pittsburgh’s Trey Edmunds, a running back by trade.
The Steelers, however, were unable to take advantage of the great field position. A penalty, a sack and a dropped pass pushed Pittsburgh out of field-goal range.
Rams: Center Brian Allen left in the first quarter with a knee issue and did not return. DB Darious Williams left with an ankle problem.
Steelers: Wide receiver Ryan Switzer left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.
Rams: Host the Chicago Bears (4-5) next Sunday night.
Steelers: Travel to Cleveland to play the Browns (3-6) on Thursday. Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 in its past eight meetings with Cleveland.
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Nicholls State uses long ball to upset Pitt 75-70
By ALAN SAUNDERS Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The first time Nicholls State had a chance to upset a high-major opponent this season, the Colonels fell behind Illinois before coming back to force overtime.
After losing that game in the extra period, the Colonels knew what they needed to do to get a win on Saturday in a tough road environment at Pittsburgh.
“Hit them in the mouth first.”
That’s the message redshirt senior guard D’Angelo Hunter professed as the Colonels faced Pitt, and then he led the charge doing just that.
Hunter scored a team-high 17 points as this time it was Nicholls that raced out to a 10-point first-half lead and then held on late to upset the Panthers 75-70.
“We’ve been stressing these last few days to come out and try to jump on them,” Colonels head coach Austin Claunch said. “The way we play, we can do that.”
Pitt mounted a second-half comeback bid, but a turnover on a traveling violation by sophomore Pitt guard Au’Diese Toney with the Panthers trailing by three and 25 seconds left on the clock ended any chance of that.
The turnovers were a theme, as Nicholls jumped out to a big lead with a defense that created 21 turnovers that turned into 26 points. The Colonels supplanted that with a red-hot afternoon from 3-point range.
“They came out with great energy, great togetherness early and really just took it to us, right from the start of the game,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “They had so many guys step up and make big plays, make big shots.”
Hunter, a West Virginia transfer playing in his second game at Nicholls, shot 7 of 15 from the floor and 3 of 6 from 3-point range as the Colonels dominated from beyond the 3-point arc. Kevin Johnson hit 4 of 8 from long range and Jeremiah Buford came off the bench to make 2 of 4. As a team, Nicholls shot 11 of 24 from 3-point range.
“I’ve been preparing for a while,” Hunter said. “I just finally got the opportunity. . I’m just excited to be here.”
Junior college transfer Ryan Murphy was a dominant force for the Panthers. He came off the bench just over three minutes into the game and never came out. He scored a game-high 28 points on 10 of 17 from the floor and made all four of Pitt’s 3-pointers, going 4 of 7 from long range while the rest of the Panthers were 0 for 9.
Nicholls State might have a hard time finding high-major sparring partners if they keep this up. The Colonels took Illinois to overtime before falling 78-70 in their season opener on Tuesday before upsetting Pitt. They’ll have two more chances at big-time upsets when they visit LSU on next Saturday and West Virginia on Dec. 14.
Pitt fell victim to a classic trap game, with their afternoon battle with the Colonels coming on the heels of Wednesday night’s season-opening win against ACC foe Florida State. The Panthers proved in that one they can play with anyone, but slow starts shooting have been a common thread. Pitt started 2 of 15 from the floor against the Seminoles and 3 for 15 to begin the game against Nicholls.
Nicholls State will return to Louisiana for its home opener against Paul Quinn College, an NAIA school from Dallas, on Wednesday night.
Pitt will travel across Allegheny County to play Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa. on Tuesday to open the Colonials’ new UPMC Events Center.
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Goodwin leads Notre Dame past Robert Morris 92-57
By ANTHONY ANDERSON Associated Press
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Mike Brey liked what he saw at both ends of the court, and particularly in light of how young this college basketball season is.
“This is what, 20 home openers?” Brey said of his time as Notre Dame coach following Saturday’s 92-57 blowout victory over Robert Morris.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more pleased about one, given what I needed to see after last year,” the coach said. “I saw some stuff today that I was going, man, that’s really good to see in November.”
Last season, the Fighting Irish (1-1) went 14-19, their worst record under Brey. On Saturday, according to the coach, they were a team that was fast, yet controlled, on offense, a team that guarded effectively and a team that performed fearlessly.
Dane Goodwin led a balanced attack with 18 points off the bench as Notre Dame improved to 20-0 in home openers under Brey.
T.J. Gibbs added 15 points, Prentiss Hubb 13, Robby Carmody 13 and John Mooney a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Already leading 39-20 at the break, the ball-sharing Irish effectively put the game away with a 16-2 spree over the first four minutes of the second half for a 55-23 advantage. All five ND starters scored during that spurt.
Josh Williams netted 18 of his game-high 21 points for the Colonials (0-2) in the second half, finishing 6-of-16 on 3-pointers, but little else went right for the visitors.
“I thought our effort was horrendous,” RMU coach Andrew Toole said. “Obviously, their guys really know how to play. They take advantage of any crack in your armor. They’ll expose your weaknesses if you’re not engaged or urgent, and they did it to us all day long.”
The Irish shot 57% from the field while holding the Colonials to 34%. Notre Dame also made 22 of 25 free throws to the visitors’ 2 of 4.
“I think we sent a big message today,” senior Rex Pflueger said of ND’s bounce back from Tuesday’s season-opening 76-65 loss at No. 9 North Carolina. “It was a tough game down there. We had a real shot to win, but the maturity to come to practice the next day and get after it, get after each other, and to come into today and play the way we did, I think it sends a good message.”
Robert Morris: The Colonials, who appeared to offer little in the way of defensive resistance, will need to get accustomed to trying to solve opposing offenses on the road. Nine of their first 11 games are away from home.
Notre Dame: Returning nearly their entire team from a season ago, the Irish have a chance to continue building momentum before they get into the thick of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Just two of their first 15 games are against currently ranked clubs and one of those already took place with the loss at Carolina.
Goodwin’s 18 in just 18 minutes were part of 42 points that the Irish bench contributed. Carmody’s 13 points also came in a reserve role.
“We didn’t have any drop-off,” said Brey, who indicated that he’ll likely remain comfortable with a rotation of nine players.
Goodwin finished 6 of 8 from the field and 5 of 5 at the line, while Carmody was 4 of 6 and 5 of 6. Nate Laszewski chipped in nine points and eight rebounds over 15 minutes off the bench.
All three are sophomores.
Hubb’s 5-of-8 shooting included 3 of 6 outside the arc, and it followed the sophomore guard’s career-high 22 points at Carolina.
Hubb is 13 of 25 from the field overall and 8 of 15 on 3-pointers over two games after struggling mightily during his freshman season at just 35% overall and 26% on triples.
“He’s a big-time threat,” Brey said. “He’s really quarterbacking us now, running stuff, and now our (other) passers find him. I love that he’s stepping up and taking it. He was streaky last year, but throughout his life, he’s been able to make open shots, so I just want him confidently pulling up.”
Robert Morris: The Colonials host neighboring nemesis Pittsburgh on Tuesday in their only home contest among their first seven games. RMU has never beaten the Panthers over 30 meetings, the last coming in November 2011.
Notre Dame: The Irish play the second of six straight home games when Howard visits Tuesday. Notre Dame has never faced the Bison.
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No. 13 Minnesota stays unbeaten vs No. 5 Penn State, 31-26
By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The progress made by Minnesota in coach P.J. Fleck’s third season had been met by natural skepticism outside the long-languishing program, with even the most ardent fans in full prove-it mode for this game of unbeaten teams against Penn State.
From start to finish, the Gophers matched the moment. They took down the Nittany Lions with a narrative-altering performance.
Jordan Howden picked off Sean Clifford’s pass in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third interception thrown by Penn State’s quarterback, and 13th-ranked Minnesota held on for a 31-26 victory on Saturday afternoon for its first win over a top-five team in 20 years.
“I’m just so proud to be a Gopher, and I speak for our whole team when I say that,” said Fleck, who declared the game ball he handed afterward to the school president for the entire state.
Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns in a dismantling of fifth-ranked Penn State’s staunch defense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten championship game. For a program has not won the conference since a shared title in 1967, this is a whole new world.
“As an athlete and just in life,” Morgan said, “you should want pressure because that means your life is significant.”
The first sellout crowd for the Gophers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, reveling in the first win at home over a top-five team since a shutout of No. 1 Michigan in 1977. The Gophers scrambled the College Football Playoff picture a bit, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edition of the rankings.
“We knew they were a good football team,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said. “It’s hard to be undefeated.”
Rashod Bateman got the Gophers going with a 66-yard score on their first possession that covered 95 yards. He finished with seven catches for 203 yards, the second-most in program history. Tyler Johnson had seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown, too, as Morgan found opening after opening in the Penn State zone to produce enough early gains the Gophers could bank for the inevitable late rally by the Nittany Lions. Morgan went 18 for 20, his second game of the season with a 90% or better completion rate.
“He was reading us very well. He kind of knew what we were in and what they could to do expose us there,” linebacker Jan Johnson said. “They hit their plays. He made their throws.”
Journey Brown’s second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:49 to go cut the lead to five points, and the Gophers promptly went three and out. K.J. Hamler muffed the punt when a teammate backed into him, and though the Nittany Lions recovered, they were pushed back to their 28-yard line.
Clifford, who went 23 for 43 for 340 yards and one score, connected with Jahan Dotson for 49 yards to get Penn State to the 11. Two plays later, however, came the drive killer. Daniel George was called for offensive pass interference during an over-the-middle catch by Brown that reached the 2. Clifford, who was off target for most of the day, overthrew George on the next play before the game-sealing pick by Howden. Clifford, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in total offense, had only three interceptions over the first eight games.
“Everyone’s obviously upset. We didn’t want to lose that game,” left guard Steven Gonzalez said. “They played well. We played our hearts out.”
Antoine Winfield Jr. had the first two picks in the first half, matching the FBS lead and setting the all-time Minnesota record with seven on the season. Both were inside the 10-yard line.
“It shows the culture. It shows the character. It shows their charisma. It shows their ability to overcome, and it shows what they’ve learned,” Fleck said.
Penn State: Seeking their first berth in the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions watched a defense that had allowed the second-fewest points in the FBS entering the game take a step back against a group of Gophers receivers that Franklin warned would be the best they’d faced all year. Their championship chase can get back on track with a win at Ohio State in two weeks.
Minnesota: Ending a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents and beating a top-five team for the first time since a win at No. 2 Penn State in 1999, the Gophers produced a potentially program-changing victory that has been missing for so many decades. They have a two-game lead in the West Division with three to go, with their first Rose Bowl bid since 1961 well within reach.
Penn State could fall behind Minnesota, which will certainly climb into the top 10 on Sunday and notch its highest ranking since 1962. The loss will also hurt the Nittany Lions in the CFP pecking order, with the Gophers getting a boost but still with a long way to go to be in the mix.
Penn State: Hosts Indiana next Saturday. The Nittany Lions have a 21-1 record against the Hoosiers, with the only loss on the road 2013.
Minnesota: Plays at Iowa next Saturday. The Gophers have lost four straight games against the Hawkeyes.
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Penguins rally, edge Blackhawks 3-2 in shootout
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Penguins keep losing high-profile players and keep winning games. It’s not ideal, but they’ll take it — for now at least.
Jake Guentzel and Jared McCann scored in a shootout and the Penguins ended a 10-game losing streak against the Chicago Blackhawks by rallying for a 3-2 victory Saturday night despite captain Sidney Crosby leaving in the third period with a lower-body injury.
The Penguins were already playing without Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist when Crosby gingerly made his way off the ice early in the third and did not return. Pittsburgh still improved to 4-1-1 in its last six despite spotting Chicago a two-goal lead.
Guentzel’s eighth of the season late in the second period gave the Penguins life and Bryan Rust’s fifth in six games since his return from injured reserve tied it midway through the third period. Guentzel and McCann both beat Corey Crawford in the shootout, and when Matt Murray turned away Alex DeBrincat, the Penguins had their first victory over Chicago since March 30, 2014.
“Shows a lot of character in this room, but we’re not making it easy on ourselves,” Rust said. “We do seem to have a pretty good leadership group in here and we do kind of know when to push a little bit harder.”
Patrick Kane collected his sixth goal of the season for Chicago and used some nifty stickhandling to slip the puck by Murray in the shootout. Dominik Kubalik added his fourth for Chicago. Crawford made 29 saves but couldn’t stop Guentzel’s flip between the goaltender’s legs or McCann’s wrist shot in the shootout.
“Would’ve been nice to come away with that game, but they’re a good team,” Kane said. “They’ve been playing well all year. They had a big comeback against the Islanders the other night. Obviously, nice to get a point. Hopefully keep building on what we have going on here, but it would’ve been nice to have two.”
Two days after storming back from three goals down in the third period to stun the Islanders in overtime, the Penguins followed a similar script to top the Blackhawks for the first time in more than five years.
Chicago squandered a chance to take the lead early in the second period when it failed to convert on an extended 5-on-3 power play. Kane had an excellent opportunity for the right circle but his one-timer missed everything, sailing over the goal, over the boards and into the netting.
Crawford turned aside Pittsburgh’s surge after the teams returned to full strength, and Kubalik gave the Blackhawks the lead 7:09 into the second when Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin whiffed while trying to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The mistake led to a three-on-one the other way, with Kubalik taking a feed from Brandon Saad and slamming it past Murray for his fourth of the season.
Kane doubled Chicago’s advantage just 98 seconds later, pouncing on the puck after teammate Calvin De Haan blocked a shot then racing the other way before beating Murray with a wrist shot at 9:47 to extend his scoring streak to a season-high five games.
Just as they did against the Islanders, Pittsburgh scrambled back. Guentzel drew the Penguins within 2-1 with 3:56 left in the second, though Malkin did much of the dirty work, swiping the puck near center ice, zipping down the left side and beating Slater Koekkoek to the post. Malkin then slipped a pass between Koekkoek and Crawford to a wide-open Guentzel racing down the slot. Guentzel easily put the puck into the open net for his eighth of the season.
Rust tied it when he finished off an extended Penguins’ push by camping below the left dot and delivering when a pass from John Marino found his stick.
“The biggest thing for me that Rusty has shown since Day 1 of training camp is a sense of urgency,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “When he plays that way, he’s at his best. I think he’s done that consistently day in and day out.”
NOTES: Penguins C Evgeni Malkin had two assists for the Penguins. … Letang is dealing with a lower-body injury Sullivan described as “week to week.” … The Penguins scratched Letang, D Chad Ruhwedel and C Sam Lafferty. … Chicago scratched D Adam Boqvist and C Kirby Dach. … Chicago D Olli Maatta, who won a pair of Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, played 18:09. … The Blackhawks went 0 for 2 on the power play. … The Penguins were 0 for 3 with the man advantage and haven’t scored on the power play in 11 straight games. … Pittsburgh’s has killed off 14 consecutive penalties and 20 of their last 21 overall. … Pittsburgh improved to 7-2-1 against the Western Conference.
Blackhawks: Host Toronto on Sunday.
Penguins: Visit Metropolitan Division rivals the New York Rangers for the first time this season on Tuesday.
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Losing is never easy to deal with. Joe Greco is no exception.
The New Brighton head coach spoke about his team’s fall to Avonworth in the 2A Quarterfinals at Ambridge, feeling that the gameplan that the Lions came up with wasn’t executed as hoped. He praised his seniors for their leadership and said that next year’s squad has a strong core.
To listen to the full interview, click on the player below.