Kevin Lankinen and the Blackhawks won their first game in nearly two weeks on Tuesday night. Three different Hawks scored, Patrick Kane logged two assists, and Lankinen stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced.
Before the game, the Blackhawks honored Patrick Kane for playing his 1,000th NHL game. He accomplished that milestone on March 9th at Dallas, but Tuesday marked the Blackhawks’ first home game since. Coach Joel Quenneville was in attendance to give his former player his recognition.
Hawks Score Twice In First Period
The Blackhawks started fast in the first period like usual. In their last two meetings against the Panthers, the Blackhawks scored the game’s first goal and did it once again last night.
Six minutes in, Brandon Hagel entered the offensive zone with speed alongside Dominik Kubalik. The two connected and the Blackhawks were up one. This scoring play marked Kubalik’s 11th goal of the season and Hagel’s eighth assist, which ranks ninth among NHL rookies this season.
In the final two minutes of the opening frame, the Blackhawks were rewarded for a solid start and extended their lead to two when Pius Suter redirected a Nikita Zadorov shot. It was Suter’s ninth goal of the season and his first in six games.
The Blackhawks outshot the Panthers 11-7 while generating 13 scoring chances to help carry a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Power Play Strikes Again
The Blackhawks went to their second power play of the game just under five minutes into the middle frame. The power play has been heating up as of late and they cashed in once again to extend their lead to three.
Patrick Kane found Carl Soderberg in the slot who directed the puck past Panthers’ goaltender Chris Driedger. Kane’s 32 assists this season rank second-most in the NHL. Meanwhile, Soderberg now has four power play goals on the year.
Lankinen finally let a puck get behind him midway through the game. The Blackhawks had one of their few defensive breakdowns and Panthers’ defenseman Anton Stralman buried a no-doubter after being left alone in the slot.
The Blackhawks had a 3-1 lead after two periods and dominated the majority of play. They were leading the Panthers on the scoreboard and logged 5:46 of offensive zone time compared to the Panthers’ 2:55.
But even while holding a lead, things haven’t always gone swimmingly for the Blackhawks. They had blown seven of their last nine multi-goal leads.
Blackhawks Hold on in the Third
After losing his last three starts, Lankinen had stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced through two periods and came up huge in the opening minutes of the third.
With six minutes left, it was the Panthers’ turn to score on the power play. Nikita Zadorov took a hooking penalty in the defensive zone and Florida put together a nifty play after pulling the goalie to make it a one-goal game.
With two minutes left, Mattias Janmark nearly scored in the empty net but was slashed on the play. The Blackhawks played “four corners” for most of the two minutes and got a beautiful sprawling breakup from Connor Murphy in the dying seconds to seal the 3-2 win.
The Blackhawks’ record now stands at 15-13-5. Getting back in the win column was of utmost importance, as they were slipping before Tuesday having lost four straight. They hold a two-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division
What’s On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks and Panthers will meet again on Thursday at 7:00 PM CDT. That game will mark the second of their current six-game homestand. Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for further Blackhawks commentary and analysis.