The Chicago Blackhawks won their second consecutive game to complete a series sweep of the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the United Center. Kevin Lankinen kept the Panthers off the scoreboard in the first period despite taking two penalties. Lankinen made 13 saves in the opening frame, including three in four minutes of shorthanded time.
Offensively, the Blackhawks didn’t create much after the first few minutes. They generated seven shots on goal and just one high-danger scoring chance in the period.
Connor Murphy played over seven minutes and blocked four shots in the opening frame.
Kane Pots Two Points in Two Minutes
As time expired in the first period, Adam Boqvist was tripped in the neutral zone and the Blackhawks started the second period with their first power play of the game.
With Brandon Hagel and Carl Soderberg causing havoc in front of Panthers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Patrick Kane scooped up a loose puck and buried the game’s first goal. There was contact with Bobrovsky, but the Panthers chose not to challenge the play.
This tally marked Kane’s 13th goal of the season, but it was his passing ability on display two minutes later to help extend the Blackhawks’ lead to two.
Kane held up at the blue line and drew two Panthers’ defenders to him before finding Alex DeBrincat cross-ice. Pius Suter was the recipient of a perfectly placed rebound created by DeBrincat and the Hawks led by two. Suter now has scored in back-to-back games and has ten goals on the season to lead NHL rookies.
Carpenter Scraps Weegar
The Blackhawks’ toughness has been questioned a few times this season, most recently during their two losses against Tampa Bay last week. Head coach Jeremy Colliton instructed his players to not engage, but it affected their play while the Lightning made easy work of them.
In tonight’s game, Ryan Carpenter showed the Blackhawks are willing to engage. Two minutes after taking a two-goal lead, Carpenter was jumped by Panthers’ defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. Carpenter dropped him with a pair of right-handed jolts and the Blackhawks were awarded their second power play of the game due to Weegar receiving an instigator penalty.
Blackhawks Power Kill
Just as they did in the first period, the Blackhawks took two penalties in the middle frame. Luckily for the Hawks, Lankinen stood on his head to keep the Panthers scoreless. He stopped all 17 shots he faced in the period including six saves while shorthanded. The Panthers were finding ways to get to high-scoring areas, but Lankinen had an answer for each chance.
Late in the second period, the Panthers had their best scoring chance of the game. Murphy fumbled the puck while his teammates were changing and the Panthers went off on a 3-on-0. Once again, Lankinen kept it out of the net. The Finnish netminder stopped all 30 shots he faced through two periods.
Lankinen Stops ‘Em All
The Blackhawks went on to take two more penalties in the third period, but Lankinen continued to shut the door and made 11 more saves in the final frame on his way to his second career shutout. His 41-save shutout is the most saves in a shutout in the NHL this season.
Brandon Hagel buried an empty-net goal at the end of the game to give the Blackhawks a 3-0 win.
The Blackhawks are now 16-13-5 on the season and have a three-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks play the third of their current six-game homestand on Saturday against the Predators. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM CDT. The Blackhawks are 0-2 against the Predators this season with their last meeting resulting in a 2-1 SO loss on January 27.
Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for further Blackhawks analysis and commentary all season.