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Panthers hold on for 5-4 win over Blackhawks

The Duke turns it on again for surging Cats

NHL: MAY 01 Panthers at Blackhawks Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Anthony Duclair and Aleksander Barkov combined for three goals and five points as the Florida Panthers posted a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in their final road game of the regular season.

Duclair opened the scoring at the 7:54 mark when he exited the penalty box and received a headman pass from Sam Bennett after a Gustav Forsling shot block. Duclair skated down the left boards, rounded the net, bulled his way through Wyatt Kalynuk along the right boards before working his way into the upper right circle and beating Kevin Lankinen.

Nikita Gusev scored for the first time since February 23, when he was with New Jersey, 2:30 into the second to grow the lead to two, After Ryan Lomberg and Radko Gudas combined to keep to hold the zone, the puck came down low to Gusev, who cut in on Lankinen and flicked a backhander between Lankinen’s pads along the ice.

The Blackhawks would tally twice in a 52-second span later in the period to tie the game.

With Gudas off for holding, Adam Gaudette won an offensive draw against Barkov. Brett Connolly threw the puck back to Connor Murphy at the right point, and his shot found its way past a screened Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Panthers went for a change on a delayed offsides and Gaudette took advantage of the situation by speeding up ice and finding up Alex DeBrincat with nifty little backhand set-up. Ian Mitchell earned the second helper on the goal that came at 16:11.

Barkov would restore Florida’s lead with seven seconds left in the stanza. Forsling worked a give and go with Duclair to gain the Chicago line with speed, drawing a trio of defenders towards him. He passed off to a now unguarded Barkov, who put it up to easily solve a lunging Lankinen.

The Duke would turn it on again (that’s a Genesis reference for you kids out there) 28 seconds into the final frame to rebuild the Cats two-goal advantage. A well-positioned Grigori Denisenko picked off a pass in the neutral zone and sent Barkov and Duclair ahead 2-on-2. Barkov got all the attention, leaving Duclair alone and he took the captain’s pass and went to the net, faked a shot and held onto puck for as his as he could on his backhand before tucking the puck into the net on the forehand for a second highlight reel moment.

It took all of 31 seconds for Owen Tippett to tack on another to put the Cats up three. A buzzing Bennett would pick off an ill-advised Patrick Kane pass back around the boards and set up a wide-open Tippett from behind the net and the hard-shooting rookie buried it for his seventh goal.

The Cats would need that goal as they got a little loose towards the end, allowing the Blackhawks to make things a tad uncomfortable.

Kirby Dach collected his second of the season via a Chicago power-play at 12:28 with the assists going to Philipp Kurashev and Brandon Hagel. Forsling made a nice diving play to block Kurashev’s original centering attempt, but he was able to chip the puck back in front and Dach deftly rapped it out of the air and over Bobrovsky’s shoulder.

The Blackhawks would make Tippett’s goal the winner when Kane’s cross-ice bullet from along the left boards found Dominik Kubalik open in the right circle, and he sniped a shot over Bobrovsky’s glove with 18 ticks left in regulation and Lankinen off for an extra attacker. DeBrincat made it a two-point night with the secondary assist.

Florida would hang on to finish its road schedule with a 17-9-2 record and maintain second place in the Discover Central Division. After gagging up a two-goal lead, the Panthers took control of the tilt with goals from Barkov, Duclair and Tippett in a 1:06 span late in the second and early in the third period. A little disappointing that they sort of let the Blackhawks back in it, but they managed to do what good teams do, and that’s come away with two points. The Cats will return home for the final three games of the slate with one against the desperate Dallas Stars and two against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida still has a chance at first place, but it’s much more likely the pair against the Bolts will decide who has home-ice advantage in a playoff between the two Sunshine State teams.

Bows & Arrows

  • Florida’s revamped top line of Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair and rookie Grigori Denisenko produced a total of six points and five shots on goal. Each skater finished with a team-best +3 rating.
  • Duclair notched his first multi-goal game in a Panthers uniform and extended his point streak to five games. The 25-year-old speedster has points in 12 of his last 13 games played.
  • Barkov went 14 of 22 on faceoffs, blocked two shots, and registered a hit and a takeaway in 15:36 TOI.
  • After going scoreless in his first three NHL appearances, Denisenko now has assists in back-to-back games.
  • The goalies got a lot of action last night with Sergei Bobrovsky finishing up with 31 saves while Kevin Lankinen made 37.
  • Goose call: Nikita Gusev scored his first goal as a Panther while Gustav Forsling had his first multi-assist game as a Cat.
  • Sam Bennett’s two helpers give the former Flame 13 points (5G/8A) in nine games since he was traded to Florida.
  • In addition to his assist, Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell blocked three blocked shots in 15:16 of ice time in his first game since April 17.
  • For more on the series season finale, visit Second City Hockey. See you next year, Chicago!

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