The Blackhawks led for much of the game and fought back late to force overtime, but fell on Thursday night to the Florida Panthers in the extra frame, 4-3.
Adam Gaudette, Vinnie Hinostroza and AlexDeBrincat all found twine in the loss and Kevin Lankinen made 35 stops in the overtime defeat.
"I thought overall it was a step in the right direction," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I liked our start, thought we had a really good first. Second period, they got a little momentum from the penalties, created quite a few chances on the power play. A couple breakdowns... Overall, I thought we played much harder and gave ourselves a chance. We definitely had our chances in overtime to win it. It's always sour to lose. You want to have that feeling when you do what you're supposed to do and you get two points, but it was a step forward."
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
DOWN WITH A FIGHT
The overtime defeat was a heartbreaking result for the Blackhawks, who led twice on the night and tied things up with just under 18 seconds on the clock to force the extra frame. Chicago dominated much of the overtime period, but ultimately saw Sam Bennett go the other way in the final minute to take the full two points on the night.
"It sucks. We're fighting for our lives right now. To not get two points, it sucks. We've got to find a way to get two points. It's nice to get one point and to claw back a little bit, but we've got to find a way to get two almost every night here to give ourselves a chance."
"Like all of our games, we've had some good, we've had some bad spurts," Vinnie Hinostroza said. "I think it just comes down to putting a full 60 minutes together. Obviously if we do that, we're harder to play against, we're harder to beat. We never gave up and we had some great opportunities in the third, great opportunities in overtime. It's a step in the right direction, but obviously we'd like to get two points here."
It was a familiar affair on Thursday night, not only because the Blackhawks and Panthers faced each other for the seventh time this season, but because three members of Chicago's roster on the night were members of the Panthers as recently as three weeks ago: Hinostroza, Brett Connolly and Riley Stillman.
"There's a lot of emotion there," Stillman said pregame. "Obviously it was a team that gave me an opportunity to come into the NHL. They drafted me, they gave me my first game, last year I played and to start this year. To play against them here on home ice, there's a lot of emotions. It's exciting."
"You're only human to have those feelings," Colliton said of the trio facing Florida. "Whether it's old friends or you've got something to prove, you want to be at your best."
Hinostroza has 10 points (3G, 7A) in 11 games thus far after his second-period strike against his former team, Stillman signed a three-year contract extension with his new club on Sunday and Connolly has a goal in eight appearances.
FANS IN SIGHT
Thursday's game was the 25th home game of the regular season for the Blackhawks, but, at long last, the final one without at least some contingent of spectators present.
As announced in partnership with the City of Chicago and the United Center on Thursday morning, Saturday's final game of the current homestand will allow the team to host a few hundred player family members and team-invited guests before closing out the final two home games of the year on May 9 and 10 to approximately 25 percent capacity inside the UC for fans at large.
"It's awesome. It's super exciting," Connor Murphy said. "We miss them, obviously. It feels like it's been awhile and we can't wait to have whatever amount it is back. It'll be exciting a lot of new guys on the team that have been here all year don't know what it's like and have been itching. Guys who have been here know what it's like coming in here and the adrenaline you get from our crowd and our anthem, and rookies, it'll be just that much more exciting. It'll probably hit home even more what being a Blackhawk's like being able to have our fans."
"It's huge," Stillman said. "The atmosphere of having fans in the building, it brings more emotion. It brings more of a competitive side from players with the noise. A big hit is that much bigger. A big goal is that much bigger. To get the fans back in our building here is something that's really going to help us and I'm really excited to see."
Tickets go on sale for the final two home games beginning on Monday, May 3 to current full season ticketholders before any remaining seats go on sale to the public on Tuesday, May 4 at 12 p.m. CT. New full season ticketholders who secure their seats for next season prior to this date will also receive access this exclusive presale. Visit Blackhawks.com/Tickets for more information on available plans for the 2021-22 season.
"I think it's great," Colliton added. "That extra energy will really help our guys. Everyone wants that. The impact they have at home here at the United Center, it's well-known across the league and we want to get back to it."
For full details on the return of fans to the United Center, click here.