CHICAGO (AP) — Derek King smiled. Sure, there’s work to do, he said, but he is seeing positive signs for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“There’s some cleaning up to do, obviously,” the interim coach said. “But at least, the battle level’s there. The accountability is there, and you can see these guys are actually playing for each other.”
Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves and then two more stops in the shootout, and the Blackhawks won again under King by topping the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday night.
King took over after Jeremy Colliton was fired Saturday following a 1-9-2 start for a team that began the season with playoff aspirations. King said he wanted the Blackhawks to have more fun, and they responded with dramatic victories in each of his first two games.
“Winning makes everything better,” defenseman Seth Jones said.
Jones and Jujhar Khaira scored in regulation for Chicago, which lost 5-2 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 16. Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat converted their shootout opportunities.
Jeff Carter scored twice and Tristan Jarry had 30 saves for Pittsburgh, which lost for the fifth time in six games. The Penguins came up empty on three power-play chances, including a shot by Kasperi Kapanen that went off a post early in the third period.
“When they came into our building we were on our toes,” Carter said. “We played our game from the get-go. Tonight, a lot of changes here for them the last few days. They came out with a lot of energy.”
Chicago jumped in front when Toews skated behind the net before finding Khaira in front 2:14 into the second. Jones then made it 2-0 when he beat Jarry on the stick side from the right circle with 4:07 left in the period.
It was the first goal for each player in their first season with the Blackhawks.
“It feels nice. I’ve shot the puck a lot this year and it hasn’t gone in,” Jones said. “I just told myself, ‘Keep shooting.’”
Pittsburgh got one back when Carter tipped Jake Guentzel’s pass between Fleury’s legs 5:34 into the third.
The Penguins controlled much of the action in the final period. Evan Rodrigues nearly stuffed one home with 9:42 left. Brian Boyle’s backhand was smothered by Fleury with 6:00 to go.
After Jarry denied Mike Hardman on a breakaway, the Penguins skated the other way and Guentzel set up Carter again in front for the tying score at 15:43. It was Carter’s third goal of the season.
“A great response by the team. We were not overly pleased with the first two periods,” said assistant Todd Reirden, who served as Pittsburgh’s acting head coach for the third straight game with Mike Sullivan sidelined by COVID-19. “We took our urgency to a higher level.”
It was a sweet win for Fleury, who allowed four goals on 10 shots in the first meeting between the teams. The veteran goaltender broke into the NHL with Pittsburgh and won three Stanley Cup titles with the Penguins.
“I was happy to get the nod and get a crack at them again,” Fleury said. “It was frustrating last time and embarrassing for me.”
Penguins defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson went through the final stage of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and skated at the team’s practice facility. Captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and Sullivan remain in the protocol.
ABOUT THOSE INJURIES
The Blackhawks played without forwards Brandon Hagel, Henrik Borgstrom and MacKenzie Entwistle.
Hagel left Sunday night’s 2-1 overtime win against Nashville because of a left shoulder injury. Entwistle was placed on long-term injured reserve with a left ankle injury that is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks. Borgstrom was out because of a non-COVID-19-related illness.
King said he thinks he will have an update on Hagel’s status Wednesday.
“Hopefully it’s just miss a game and get him back in,” King said.
Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk was activated off long-term injured reserve right before the game, but he didn’t play against the Penguins.
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