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Panthers can’t overcome slow start in 4-1 loss to Blackhawks

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Three points from Toews, 37 saves from Crawford doom Cats

Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Jonathan Toews scored a goal and added two assists, and goaltender Corey Crawford made 37 saves as the visiting Chicago Blackhawks skated past the Florida Panthers by a 4-1 count on Saturday.

Looking like they remembered every bit of the pasting the Panthers put on them in March, the Blackhawks dominated the first period, peppering Roberto Luongo with 21 shots and scoring twice.

John Hayden got the game’s first goal at the 9:25 mark. Hayden found a soft spot in Florida’s defense in the high slot and snapped the puck into the back of the net after taking a pass from Tommy Wingels.

Toews picked up his first point of the night 6:10 later, firing a hard pass in front while left all alone on the right boards to Brandon Saad, who tipped it by Roberto Luongo. Duncan Keith picked up the secondary assist on Saad’s eighth.

The Panthers started the second period on a power play and finally built some momentum, scoring fifteen seconds after the man-advantage expired when Evgenii Dadonov took an entry pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and dropped the puck Jared McCann. Chicago gave McCann too much time and space and he wired a wrist shot that Crawford’s glove had no chance of snatching.

Florida continued to apply pressure, but Crawford came up with several big stops including this one on Nick Bjugstad’s redirection of Keith Yandle’s shot from the point. The rebound came back to Bjugstad, but he could not gain control and put it home.

Soon after that, Patrick Kane restored the Blackhawks two-goal advantage beating Luongo short-side at 7:03 after he curled away from Bjugstad and found open space in the right faceoff circle. Toews and Saad collected the assists for their second points of the night.

Toews completed the scoring with a nice individual effort with 2:52 left in the middle frame. The hard-working pivot forced Mark Pysyk to turn the puck over and then batted it out the air with one hand on his stick. The puck bounced twice and somehow found its way through Luongo’s pads and over the goal line.

After opening the homestand with a solid win over Toronto, the Panthers were no match for the Blackhawks in the opening twenty minutes. Florida looked like a different team in the early part of the second period, but couldn’t tie the game and instead it was Chicago’s two brightest stars coming up with goals to put the game out of reach. The Panthers will head north for a quick back-to-back on the road against the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, two teams that have already handed them one-goal losses.

Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)

Bow & Arrows

  • After a slow start, Chicago is 3-0-1 in the last four games and have moved out of the Central Division basement.
  • Roberto Luongo finished the game with 35 saves and fell back to .500. I know it was Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and both goals came off defensive gaffes, but Luongo probably should’ve stopped both of those shots.
  • Captain Derek MacKenzie returned after a five-game absence and finished with four hits and -1 rating.
  • Corey Crawford was a winner and second star in his 400th NHL game. Crawford is a stellar 224-122-44 in his career thus far.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov each ended four-game pointless streaks with the helpers on Jared McCann’s beauty. Dadonov left in the third period and did not return.
  • Speaking of McCann, that was his first goal since he lit the lamp against the St. Louis Blues on October 12.
  • Second City Hockey has the other side of the first between the two Dale Tallon connected clubs.