The Panthers closed up their five-game road trip in the Windy City tonight with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Scott Darling, the behemoth 6'6", 232 lb., 26-year-old rookie backstop making just his eighth NHL start, held the Cats scoreless until there was less than eight minutes left in regulation. He then allowed two markers within a four minute span to necessitate the extra frame.
Jonathan Toews scored his 18th marker of the campaign with a power play goal halfway through the first frame on a stuff back of a rebound off Roberto Luongo's initial save. Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook earned helpers on the play. The Panthers were outshot 15-to-8 through the first period. The frame would also see Patrick Kane get injured when he lost an edge and crashed into the board. The Chicago announcers were harping on the "vicious, dirty play" of Alex Petrovic on the play, but Petrovic barely touched the guy.
In the second, ex-Panther Kris Versteeg lit the lamp for the 13th time this season. Patrick Sharp directed a shot directly at Luongo, and the puck deflected directly to Versteeg, who sliced it neatly past Bobby Lou's stick side. Brad Richards also earned an assist on the goal, bringing the score to 2-0. Chicago again outshot the Panthers, 12-to-8.
The third period would see the Panthers make a game of it when Brad Boyes hit Jussi Jokinen on a cross ice pass which finally beat Darling to halve the lead to one. It was Jokinen's sixth marker of the season. Aleksander Barkov also had an assist on the play, thanks mostly to some dogged determination on the puck behind Chicago's net. With three and a half minutes left in regulation, Vincent Trocheck just threw the puck on net from a tough angle for the equalizer. Steven Kampfer earned an assist, but most of the credit on this one has to go to Tomas Fleischmann, who dangled three Blackhawks on his initial drive to the net. Florida outshot the Hawks, 16-to-10.
After a very exciting overtime frame which saw the Panthers outshoot Chicago four-to-one, the Blackhawks scored on their first two shootout attempts with markers from Toews and Patrick Sharp. Rookie Darling stopped both of Florida's attempts, by Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad.
Next up for the Cats, these same Blackhawks on our turf, at 7PM on Thursday. Check back here in the morning for Todd's AM recap. For more on Chicago, go to Second City Hockey.