The Chicago Blackhawks faced several former teammates on Thursday night when they welcomed the Florida Panthers to the United Center, but it was Chicago that had the last laugh as they picked up a 3-2 victory.
Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, and Artem Anisimov all scored goals for the Blackhawks as they drew 10 Panthers penalties in the game. The win is Chicago’s second straight on home ice after dropping two straight on the road last week.
The Blackhawks came out of the gate firing on all cylinders offensively, and their constant pressure on the puck ended up resulting in an early goal. After a nice Patrick Kane feed in the neutral zone, Artem Anisimov grabbed the puck in stride, flew around Steven Kampfer, and flipped a shot past Roberto Luongo to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.
The Panthers responded quickly however, scoring a goal 34 seconds later to tie things up. This time it was bad puck coverage by the Blackhawks that cost them, as Trevor Daley and David Rundblad failed to clear the puck out of the crease. Vincent Trocheck was eventually able to pound the puck past Corey Crawford, and things were tied up at 1-1.
For the remainder of the period, the Blackhawks continued to generate chances, but they couldn’t get another shot past Luongo. Jonathan Toews’ line created numerous chances, with Viktor Tikhonov helping on the forecheck and Marian Hossa helping to maintain possession, but Luongo made several saves to keep things tied up after 20 minutes of play.
The Blackhawks got two power plays in the early stages of the second period, and although they were unable to cash in on the first one, they took advantage of the second. After Teuvo Teravainen won a face-off in the offensive zone, Artemi Panarin created space by dribbling the puck, and when Anisimov set up shop in front of the net, Brent Seabrook used the screen to blast a shot past Luongo to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.
Corey Crawford had to get active a few moments later, but the Blackhawks’ goaltender was up to the task. Jaromir Jagr had two straight scoring chances thanks to some porous Chicago defense, but Crawford knocked down the first low shot and then snared the second shot with a dazzling glove save, drawing a standing ovation from the United Center crowd.
The Panthers began to wear a rut toward their penalty box as the period wore on, giving the Blackhawks countless power play chances. Fortunately for Florida, Luongo was able to hold Chicago at bay, robbing Kane on a blasted one-timer and smothering a rebound chance at Teravainen directed toward the net on the follow-up.
Early in the third period however, the Blackhawks finally took advantage of the Panthers’ generosity. With the power play nearing completion, Seabrook fired a pass from the defensive blue line to Kane, who got in behind the Panthers’ defense and scored on a backhanded breakaway goal to put the Blackhawks up by a 3-1 margin.
The Blackhawks returned the favor to the Panthers by committing two penalties within a six-second span, and just as the 5-on-3 was set to expire, Florida scored to cut into the Chicago lead. Jagr found a loose puck in front after Crawford had trouble securing it in the crease, and he pushed it just across the goal line to make it a 3-2 game with about 12 and a half minutes to go in the contest.
Fortunately for Chicago, that was all Florida could muster, as they continued to commit penalties down the stretch and cost themselves a chance at tying things up as they fell to the Hawks.
Chicago will play again on Saturday night when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to the United Center for a Stanley Cup Final rematch. Puck drop is slotted for 7:30 p.m.