The Chicago Blackhawks came into the Sunshine State full of momentum and with a 12-game winning streak in tow, but they'll be heading back to the Windy City with decidedly less wind in their sails as they dropped their second straight game on Friday night.
The Panthers pounced for three goals early on against Scott Darling, and they added another one early in the second period as they handed the Blackhawks their second straight loss in as many days.
For the second straight game, the Blackhawks were badly outshot in the early stages of the game, but this time it was their opponent that was able to score the first goal of the night. Reilly Smith made a nice play on the rush to skate around Brent Seabrook, and the forward fired a shot past Darling to make it a 1-0 game.
The Blackhawks had a power play chance shortly after the goal, but they failed to score and Florida happily seized the momentum to add another tally to the board. Former Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell did the honors against his ex-teammates, pinching in from the point and blasting a one-timer past Darling to give Florida a 2-0 edge.
Late in the first period, the Panthers scored again, and Darling himself was the goat on the play. Quinton Howden skated into the zone and ripped a wrist shot toward the cage, but the Hawks' goaltender was unable to keep the puck in his gear as it slid into the net for a 3-0 Panthers' lead after 20 minutes of play.
Early in the second period, Rob Scuderi was in a charitable mood as he committed an atrocious turnover that led to a Florida goal. The veteran defenseman slid a pass along the boards that was intercepted by Aaron Ekblad, and the defenseman blasted a slap shot past Darling to make it a 4-0 game.
Darling did make some big saves on Smith later in the period, but despite his improved play and a power play chance for the Blackhawks, they were unable to get on the board as Florida continued to lead.
The third period saw more of the same from the Blackhawks, as their offense continued to be unable to generate any offense. Florida happily took advantage of their opponent's struggles, casually skating with the puck and racking up two points in the standings to split the season series with the Hawks.
The Blackhawks will look to improve their fortunes on Sunday night when they welcome the St. Louis Blues to the United Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. as the Hawks play on home ice for the final time before the All-Star break.