The Florida Panthers rode a fast start and shaky first period performance from Chicago Blackhawks backup goaltender Scott Darling to post an impressive 4-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions. The victory snapped Florida's frustrating four-game (0-3-1) losing streak.
After Darling foiled a couple of early chances, Reilly Smith took a nice pass from Jussi Jokinen and dented the lanky 27-year-old short side for his 14th goal of the season at the 10:19 mark.
The Cats added to the lead at 17:18 when a sharp pass from Aleksander Barkov found Brian Campbell open in the top of the left circle for a one-timer. Jonathan Huberdeau drew the second helper for his team-leading 25th assist.
Florida went up by three when Quinton Howden picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and used his speed to beat the clock and Darling with another short side goal at 19:57. Darling looked to have made the stop, but the puck leaked through and went over the goal line.
Aaron Ekblad, back after missing four games with an upper-body injury, completed the scoring early in the second period. Ekblad picked off an ill-advised clearing attempt by defenseman Rob Scuderi and blasted it home for his tenth goal of the campaign.
After being held to just 15 shots on goal over the first forty minutes, the Blackhawks put 12 on Roberto Luongo in the final frame. The locked-in veteran keeper was up to the task, registering his 20th win and 4th shutout of 2015-16.
The win, in front of a sellout crowd at the BB&T Center, kept the Panthers three points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings in the Atlantic Division. The Cats and Bolts will meet tonight in Sunrise.
Bows & Arrows
- Robero Luongo's shutout gave him sole possession of 11th place on the NHL's All-Time list. Luongo had been tied with Harry Lumley and Lorne Chabot with 71 coming into the game. Tony Esposito holds down the ten slot with 76 clean sheets.
- The Panthers raised their record to 18-0-1 when scoring three goals this season. Three remains a magic number for the Cats.
- Speaking of three, Florida hadn't scored three times in the first period since opening night against Philadelphia, when they bagged four.
- The victory was the Panthers' first against Chicago since a 3-2 win on March 8, 2011, snapping an eight-game skid to da 'Hawks.
- Scott Darling finished the game with 28 saves and saw his record fall to 5-4-2. Darling entered the game with wins in his last three starts.
- Vincent Trocheck didn't score, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Trocheck fired a game-high six shots on goal and registered two hits and two takeaways.
- war-on-ice has the advanced stats breakdown. You can get fancy by clicking here.
- Brave the winds of Second City Hockey for the other side of Florida's slump-buster.
HIghlights (courtesy of NHL.com)