SUNRISE, FL – Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg, and Jack Skille know the feeling of a Blackhawk win all too well. The former Hawks won a Stanley Cup with the Original Six franchise, after all. But with the tables turned, and the four on the opposite end, the magic could not be repeated. For the second time in two games, the Florida Panthers fell in a shootout, this time 3-2.
“The Hair Club For Men”, Coach Kevin Dineen joked. “I’m going to go bald if they always try to finish a game like that.”
“That’s not what we want,” Versteeg said. “We’ve got to take positives in that we played really well against a good hockey team and controlled the last three-quarters of the game. We’re going to have to learn to squeak some goals on shootouts and overtime.”
The Panthers did hold their own, but it was Chicago that got on the board first in the fourth minute of the opening frame. Dmitry Kulikov had the puck in his own zone, and attempted to pass the puck to his defensive mate Mike Weaver. Weaver lost the puck, and Jonathan Towes took possession, shuffling the puck to Andrew Brunette. Jacob Markström made the initial save, but the rebound went right back to Towes. The puck went off his skate and in. After a brief review to see if it was kicked in, the goal stood and the Blackhawks had a 1-0 lead. It was his fifth goal of the 2011-12 campaign.
That lead ballooned to a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead five minutes into the second. Patrick Kane lead the rush down ice on the left wing side, and passed it to Marián Hossa, who was skating in on the right wing side. His one-timer beat Markström stick side for Hossa’s sixth goal of the season.
Markström battled back and kept his team in the game, stopping 26 shots in the final two frames, including six in overtime alone.
“He’s going to be a phenomenal goalie, Versteeg said of his goalie, “It’s exciting to see guy like that be able to play like that against a pretty skilled hockey team.”
Backed by their rookie phenom, the Panthers staged late-game magic yet again. Near the end of the second, Versteeg led the play over the blue line, and passed it for Stephen Weiss, who worked the stick around Chicago’s net-minder Corey Crawford to score his fifth of the season.
“I threw it over to Weiss and he pretty much stick-handled his way around and put it in. It was a pretty nice goal by Weiss,” Versteeg explained.
Versteeg again was on the ice when, with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Ed Jovanovski tipped a shot from Kulikov past Crawford to tie the game at 2. It was the second goal of the season for the enforcer, who usually sits at the point.
“I was down there already,” Jovanovski said. “I just wanted to get a stick on it.”
The shootout came down to the last shooter of round three, After all three Panthers and both Blackhawks had shots that either missed or were saved, Patrick Kane went right down the center of the ice, and, cool as a cucumber, let a backhand go from just to the right of Markström to give Chicago the extra point.
The comeback effort did not go unnoticed by Markström, who said he was grateful for his team’s second half performance. “They work their [butts] off,” he said. “It’s great to have a group of guys that work that hard every day.”
Despite the loss, Dineen also praised his team, saying: “You can just feel it on the bench. There’s a confidence level that can’t be taught, can’t be bought. It’s just the players believing in themselves.-.-. No matter what the situation is we go out there and can still create offense.
“Sometimes we get a little too cute for our game.”
The Blackhawks head north to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday. The Panthers will have to wait for Sunday, when they too will take on the Lightning. Sunday’s game is a 5:00 PM start from the BankAtlantic Center.
- For the first time in his young NHL career, Erik Gudbranson was a healthy scratch for tonight’s game. He spoke with George Richards of The Miami Herald. “I’m forcing things too much,” He told Richards. “[Dineen] told me to use this as a learning experience.” Keaton Ellerby started in his place. Ellerby is celebrating his 23rd birthday tonight.
- The Panthers activated forward Sean Bergenheim and sent forward Tim Kennedy to San Antonio (AHL) on Wednesday. Bergenheim played Thursday, but was not active on the scoresheet.
- Matt Bradley got into a fight with Jamal Mayers in the first period. Bradley played just 2:29 over three shifts and was benched for most of the remainder of the game.
- 15,929 fans attended tonight’s game, including the Blackhawks’ players fathers, who are on their annual Dad’s trip. The fathers will fly to Tampa with their sons for tomorrow’s game.
- Corey Crawford (CHI) W, 43 SV
- Jacob Markström (FLA) L, 33 SV
- Patrick Kane (CHI) SO GWG, A