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Vatrano gives Panthers 5-4 overtime win over Blackhawks

Cats overcome blown lead to move to 2-0

Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Frank Vatrano’s first goal of the season, 2:50 into overtime, gave the Florida Panthers a 5-4 comeback victory over the winless Chicago Blackhawks.

Vatrano finished off a crossing pass from Aleksander Barkov with a drive from the right circle after Florida’s captain received the puck from defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who carried into the Chicago zone.

Newcomers Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist each scored two goals to provide the Panthers offense in regulation time.

Verhaeghe and Hornqvist lit the lamp in the first period to stake the Cats to a two-goal lead before Dominik Kubalik’s pulled one back for the Blackhawks with a power-play goal with 1:20 left in the frame.

Verhaeghe restored Florida’s two-goal by tapping in the rebound after Kevin Lankinen, making his first NHL start, denied Anthony Duclair on a breakaway early in the second period.

Chicago got a second power-play goal from Kubalik and backhand beauty from Patrick Kane with 50 left into the second period to tie the tilt again.

The Blackhawks took the lead for the first time this season when rookie Philipp Kurashev scored his first NHL goal 6:06 into the third. Kurashev used Radko Gudas as a screen and whizzed the puck by Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove.

Hornqvist stopped the bleeding 1:11 later with his team-leading third goal when Keith Yandle’s blast from center point found the back of the net off his sweater with Ryan Carpenter off for hooking.

In addition to Verhaeghe bagging his first two Panther goals, Duclair drew two helpers for his first two Florida points and Alexander Wennberg picked up his first point as a Cat with an assist on Verhaeghe’s second goal.

Barkov and Yandle also had two helpers, and Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Weegar drew assists as Florida’s offense pumped out an encouraging five goals again.

Bobrovsky, who missed a big chunk of training camp, stopped 30 of 34 shots, including a penalty shot save on Kane in the second period. This game certainly won’t ease any of the lingering doubts after Bobrovsky’s performance in 2019-20, but he got the win and in this truncated season every point is of the utmost importance.

The Panthers did a good job staying out of the penalty box again, taking only two minors, but the penalty kill allowed the dangerous Kubalik to score on both power plays, so that’s a area that needs to be shored up as the Cats prepare to hit the road.

As of this morning, Thursday night’s scheduled match against the Carolina Hurricanes is still game on. Stay away, covid-19.

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