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Toews hurt, leaves Blackhawks' loss to Penguins

Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014 9:43 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014 11:45 p.m. CDT
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(AP photo)
Chicago Blackhawks' Sheldon Brookbank (17) celebrates with teammates as he returns to the bench after scoring in the second period Sunday against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby had two goals in the final five minutes, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-1 victory over the injury-riddled Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night.

Already playing without Patrick Kane, the Hawks lost captain Jonathan Toews to an upper-body injury in the second period. Toews was hit hard by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and was holding his left arm on the bench before heading down the runway.

James Neal and Lee Stempniak also scored for the Penguins, who won their second straight and snapped a three-game home losing streak. Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves in his 36th victory of the season.

Orpik drilled Toews in the corner with 6:30 remaining in the second period while the two went for a loose puck. Toews got up slowly and did not return.

It's been a rough stretch for injuries for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who will be without star forward Kane for the rest of the regular season due to a lower-body injury. Bryan Bickell is out with an upper-body injury but is expected to return soon.

The injury to Toews galvanized the Blackhawks, who dominated play in the third period. But Fleury held up just fine.

Crosby capped a 2-on-1 rush for Pittsburgh at 15:09 of the third, sending a wrist shot over the shoulder of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. He added an empty-netter with 1:16 left for his 36th goal and league-leading 99th point of the season.

Sheldon Brookbank scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks, who have lost three straight in regulation for the first time since February 2012.

The Penguins and Hawks started the month at a snowy Soldier Field, part of the NHL Stadium Series. The Hawks cruised to a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh on March 1 in the beginning of a rough month for each team.

The Hawks and Penguins began the day with identical near-.500 March records and one win in each of their last four games.

Injuries to top forwards have played a role; the Hawks played their sixth in a row without Kane, while former NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin missed his fourth straight for Pittsburgh. Both are expected to return for the postseason.

The Hawks carried the play early, Andrew Shaw hitting a post less than two minutes into the game. But Pittsburgh scored twice in 21 seconds, taking an early 2-0 lead.

Neal snapped a wrist shot past Crawford on a 2-on-1 and Stempniak got behind Johnny Oduya after a lead pass from Matt Niskanen and beat Crawford between the pads. Neal has 10 points in his last nine games against the Hawks.

Pittsburgh had a chance to add to its lead in the second period, but came up short on two power-play opportunities.

Brookbank then delivered for the Hawks, cutting the deficit in half when he blasted a slap shot from the point behind Fleury.

NOTES: The Hawks last visited Pittsburgh in December 2011. ... Pittsburgh native Brandon Saad played his first game in his hometown. ... Joe Vitale and Simon Despres were scratched for the Penguins. ... The Hawks scratched David Rundblad, Jeremy Morin, Matt Carey and Michal Rozsival. ... Pittsburgh hosts Carolina on Tuesday, while the Hawks are home to Minnesota on Thursday.

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