February 14, 2015

After delivering one of the most exciting finishes under the NHL's new overtime format, the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have a hard act to follow.

The surging Blackhawks hope for an encore Wednesday night when the home-and-home series between two of the league's marquee teams shifts to Chicago.

It will be tough to top the action and excitement of Tuesday's matchup, where the host Penguins scored twice in the third period to force overtime. The clubs then combined for 10 shots in the 3-on-3 extra session before Artemi Panarin's goal 3:47 in lifted the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory.

Panarin's second goal of the night supported 34 saves from a locked-in Corey Crawford as Chicago (24-13-4) matched a season high with its fourth straight win.

Pittsburgh (19-15-5) still has something to build on after Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang both scored late to earn the team a point in a fourth consecutive game (2-0-2). After losing their first four after Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as head coach Dec. 13, the Penguins have gone 4-1-2 to move back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

''What I loved about our group was the resilience,'' Sullivan said. ''We just keep playing. We raised our intensity level when we had to. That's a great sign for this team.''

The Penguins' improvement has coincided with Crosby's re-emergence following a slow start. The superstar center has a goal in four straight and six with six assists over an eight-game stretch.

Letang has been on a tear as well, having amassed eight points in his last three.

Sustaining that momentum will be a challenge considering Chicago's prowess at United Center, where it's 15-5-1 this season and won seven of nine. The Penguins have lost three straight there, though they picked up a point in two.

The task likely becomes more difficult if Crawford starts again. The accomplished goaltender owns a 1.00 goals-against average and four shutouts over his past seven home assignments and is 10-3-0 with a 1.68 GAA in his last 13 overall starts.

Crawford, who had 26 saves in blanking Ottawa 3-0 on Sunday, has long been a Penguins' nemesis. In six career starts, he's 5-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA.

Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 27 saves for Pittsburgh in his second start back from a concussion that sidelined him nearly three weeks. He was sharp in Saturday's return as well, notching 38 saves in a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers.

It's unclear whether Sullivan will turn back to his No. 1 goaltender or go with Jeff Zatkoff, who's stopped 60 of 63 shots in his two starts that preceded Fleury's return.

Either will be backed by a defense that's killed off 19 straight penalties, including two Chicago chances Tuesday.

They'll also have to deal with the formidable line of Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov that has combined for eight goals during the Hawks' win streak.

Panarin's 13 goals overall rank among the NHL's rookie leaders.

"He's been great for our team, with what he brings with his energy, as well as skill," coach Joel Quenneville told the NHL's official website. "That line has been so effective for us, and him and Kane are together and share the puck at the appropriate moments."

Kane has nine points over the four games after contributing two assists Tuesday. The league's points leader remains without a goal in eight career games against Pittsburgh.

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