After edging the Nashville Predators on Sunday in the debut of interim coach Derek King, the Chicago Blackhawks now will aim for their first winning streak of the season when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Chicago earned only its second victory in 13 tries Sunday, as Alex DeBrincat tallied the game-winner just 37 seconds into overtime — and approximately 30 hours after the organization fired head coach Jeremy Colliton on Saturday afternoon.
King, promoted from coaching the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford, Ill., admitted he didn’t have much time to put his own strategic spin on Chicago’s preparation for the game. From the outset, however, he wanted the Blackhawks to feel less uptight.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” DeBrincat said. “We did a good job today of playing a bit more free. With everything that happened (Saturday), it’s a little bit easier to turn the page and start fresh.”
King, meantime, started his coaching career with a surprise, unsolicited addition to his mantel, as DeBrincat literally followed his shot into the net to retrieve the game puck for his coach.
“It was just nice. It was a nice gesture,” King said. “I made it clear this isn’t about me. I love the fact that it’s your first game, you get a win. Obviously, you’re pumped about it. But this is not about me. This is about those guys. I told them, ‘You guys should be proud of each other because you stuck together and fought through it. And you got a win out of it.'”
Backup goaltender Kevin Lankinen earned the win for Chicago, which likely will turn to Marc-Andre Fleury against his former team. Fleury spent the first 13 seasons of his career with Pittsburgh, compiling a 375-216-68 record and a 2.58 goals-against average while winning three Stanley Cups.
Playing on the road for the first time since Oct. 14, the Penguins come to Chicago as losers of four of their last five games (1-3-1).
Pittsburgh is coming off Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild, as the Penguins surrendered a pair of 6-on-5 goals in the last 3:19 of regulation. On Thursday, Pittsburgh prevailed with a 3-2 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers, but not before yielding the tying goal with 2:52 left in regulation.
“I think late in games, I know we know that teams are going to push,” Penguins forward Bryan Rust said. “I think we got to have that pushback and try and stay on our toes a little bit. I think we’re getting on our heels a little bit. I think that’s costing us a little bit. I think the more aggressive we can be in those situations, the better that we’re going to be.”
Held without a goal in the first nine games of the season, Kasperi Kapanen had a hat trick for the Penguins.
“We were really happy to see him get off the schneid a little bit,” linemate Evan Rodrigues said. “Just really, really happy for him. He played well. He’s had his chances the first nine games or so, and they just weren’t going in for him. And it’s funny the way hockey works. You get one, you start gripping your stick a little lighter, and then the game starts to come to you.”
The boost was much-needed, as the team remains without Sidney Crosby (COVID-19 protocol) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery).
Coach Mike Sullivan also remains out due to COVID-19 protocols.
–Field Level Media
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