Before the game, the Blackhawks honored Patrick Kane for his 1,000th point of his career. Game in the NHL. He completed that stretch on March 9 in Dallas, but Tuesday was the Blackhawks’ first home game since then. Coach Joel Quenneville attended the awards ceremony for his former player.
As usual, the Blackhawks got off to a fast start in the first period. In the last two meetings with the Panthers, the Blackhawks have scored the first goal of the game and they did so again last night.
Six minutes later, Brandon Hagel took on Dominic Kubalik in the offensive zone with a steady pace. Two are tied, and the Blackhawks are alone. The goal was the 11th of the season for Kubalik and the eighth assist for Hagel, who ranks ninth among NHL rookies this season.
The Blackhawks were rewarded for their strong start in the final two minutes of the first frame, extending their lead to two when Pius Suter redirected a shot from Nikita Zadorov. It was Suter’s ninth goal of the season and his first in six games.
The Blackhawks outshot the Panthers 11-7 and had 13 scoring chances to go into the first intermission with a two-goal lead.
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With just under five minutes to play, the Blackhawks took their second lead in a row. The power play has improved of late, and they took advantage of it to extend their lead to three points.
Patrick Kane found Carl Soderberg in the slot, who passed the puck to Panthers goalie Chris Dreiger. Kane, 32, is the second top scorer in the NHL this season. Meanwhile, Soderberg has scored four power play goals this year.
Lankinen finally dropped the puck behind him midway through the game. The Blackhawks had one of the few breakouts on defense, and Panthers defender Anton Stralman scored safely after being left alone in the slot.
The Blackhawks led 3-1 after two periods and dominated most of the game. They outscored the Panthers on the scoreboard, clocking in at 5:46 offensively against the Panthers’ 2:55.
But even with a lead, things haven’t always gone according to plan for the Blackhawks. They’ve forfeited seven of their last nine multi-goal leads.
After losing his last three games, Lankinen stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced in the first two periods and came up well in the early minutes of the third.
With six minutes left, it was the Panthers’ turn to score on the power play. Nikita Zadorov was awarded a defensive hooking penalty, and Florida made a great move after pulling the goalie back to bring the game back to one goal.
Two minutes before the end Matthias Janmark almost scored in the empty net, but his effort landed on the bar. The Blackhawks got four corner kicks in the final two minutes and scored in the closing seconds with a beautiful spinning shot from Connor Murphy to seal the 3-2 victory.
The Blackhawks’ record is now 15-13-5. Getting back into the win column was crucial, as before Tuesday they had lost four consecutive games. They are two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for last place in the Discover Central Division.
The Blackhawks and Panthers meet again Thursday at 7 p.m. local time. This match will be the second in a series of six that they are currently experiencing. Stay tuned to the Four Feathers podcast for more Blackhawks commentary and analysis.