They did it again. The kings of the shootout, or I should say, the kings of getting to the shootout shook off a two-goal, third period deficit to force overtime before eventually falling 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in the dreaded skills competition. The comeback effort netted the resilient Cats a much-needed point, pulling them within two of the Boston Bruins, who lost to Vancouver last night.
Chicago opened the scoring midway through the first period when Jonathan Toews lit the lamp with Alex Petrovic sitting in the penalty box for cross-checking (more like breathing on) Patrick Kane, who left the game with an upper-body injury after tumbling into the boards. Toews' attempt to pass the puck in front didn't work out, so he stuffed the puck by Roberto Luongo himself instead. Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook picked up the helpers on the Blackhawks captain's eighteenth.
The Panthers got a glorious opportunity to tie the game in the second period when Bryan Bickell wristed a broken stick at the puck with play in session, resulting in a penalty shot. Unfortunately, ham-fisted Derek MacKenzie was the shooter, and he was missed wide on journeyman goaltender Scott Darling. Ugh!
The Blackhawks added to their lead at 14:28 of the second stanza. Former Panther Kris Versteeg was able to fire a loose puck past Luongo after Patrick Sharp had his shot blocked by an unlucky Shawn Thornton. The goal was Versteeg's fourth in his last seven games.
Florida saved their best for the third period and finally got one by Darling at the 12:23 mark. Jussi Jokinen notched the goal, his sixth, after taking a sweet cross-ice pass from Brad Boyes. Aleksander Barkov drew the secondary helper on the play.
Vincent Trocheck, playing in his second game after being recalled from San Antonio, tied the game just over four minutes later when he threw the puck in front and hit Duncan Keith's skate. The biscuit eluded Darling and just found it's way over the goal line. Tomas Fleischmann set up Trocheck by knifing through a trio Blackhawks after taking a pass from Steven Kampfer.
The Cats carried the momentum into overtime, but could not come up with the winner, despite out-shooting the 'Hawks by a 4-1 margin.
Chicago made short work of the Panthers in the shootout, with Toews and Sharp scoring in the first two rounds. Trocheck was stymied by Darling and Nick Bjugstad failed to produce a shot, giving the Blackhawks the bonus point rather easily.
The performance in the skills competition was definitely one to forget, but the third period comeback was huge. The two teams will meet again Thursday in Sunrise to kick off Florida's seven-game homestand. One that could go a long to making or breaking the Panthers' season.
Odds & Sods
- The Panthers have now gone to the shootout a league-high fifteen times. That's a whopping 25% of their games. The Cats are now 6-9 in the skills competition. Oh, what a difference a sniper would make on this goal-starved team.
- Roberto Luongo finished the first sixty-five minutes of action with 36 saves, including stops on all 10 shots in the third, in another strong performance. Scott Darling turned aside 34 shots for the Blackhawks to raise his record to 6-2.
- Former 'Hawk Brian Campbell is still looking for his first career goal or assist against Chicago, the only team in the league that he has failed to record a point against.
- No, it's not fixed after all. The Cats have now gone four games (0-for-9) without scoring a power-play goal. No big surprise they've lost three in a row.
- In addition to his goal, First Star Jonathan Toews finished with five shots on goal, one hit, two takeaways and won 10-of-18 face-offs.
- Patrick Kane only took one shot on goal before leaving the game, but it was dandy that Luongo had to be sharp on. Hopefully, Kane is going to be okay, he is a key part of my fantasy team.
- Alex Petrovic had a good game for the Panthers. Petro finished with a +2 rating, blocked a couple of shots, registered one hit and had a shot on goal.
- For more on the first of the two back-to-back meetings between the Cats and Blackhawks, check out Second City Hockey and The Committed Indian.
- Adding one more thing here, a big thanks to Zack Kassian and Eddie Lack for leading Vancouver past Boston. We want the playoffs, we need the playoffs, so whoever helps us out in that regard is going to get a shout out.