The Blackhawks stumbled heading into their 10-day break.
On a night when Panthers coach Joel Quenneville made his return to the United Center, Florida came out on top 4-3 in front of 21,559 on Tuesday night. Frank Vatrano scored three second-period goals and Evgenii Dadonov added another score as the Panthers snapped the Blackhawks' five-game winning streak.
Kirby Dach had a goal and an assist while Drake Caggiula and Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks but Robin Lehner lost a goaltending battle with the Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Blackhawks hit the All-Star break - and their league-mandated bye week - with a 24-21-6 record while the Panthers improved to 28-16-5 after their sixth win in a row.
"How we spend the (break) is probably not that different," Colliton said of the momentum-stopping defeat. "We've had a good stretch, we've fought and scratched and clawed to get back in the race here and that hasn't changed. We're of course disappointed with the result and that second period, but the break comes at a good time … where we can regroup and re-energize."
Added Dach: "You're obviously going to sit on (the loss) for a couple of days but at the same time it's good to have the break and have some down time and relax and rest up for the rest of the season."
Here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks' loss:
Lehner had an uncharacteristically tough game and afterward took much of the responsibility for the loss.
"Honestly, I thought we played well," Lehner said. "I kind of let the team down (Tuesday night). I should have made a couple more saves. I thought there wasn't a step back (by the team) at all. I just needed to find a way to stop the bleeding a little bit and pick myself up. I felt better and then they scored a fourth goal (by Vatrano) off the skate, but I started the bleeding with the first goal (by Dadonov) and it was unfortunate that we couldn't stop it early enough."
Lehner allowed the four goals on 26 Panthers shots and dropped to 15-8-4 on the season. The veteran saw his goals-against average rise from 2.81 to 2.84 and save percentage drop from .924 to .922 on the season.
"It was a couple of goals that were unfortunate that hurt us a bit," Lehner added. "That's tough but it's part of hockey and I've just got to regroup and go on another run."
Colliton refused to put the onus for the loss entirely on his goaltender.
"Listen, he's been great for us," Colliton said of Lehner. "He's won some games for us that we probably weren't the better team. Definitely not going to stand here and lay it on him at all."
Dach had a memorable 19th birthday, snapping a 13-game goalless skid with a backhander past Bobrovsky to put the Blackhawks on the board in the second period.
"Obviously, you always like to score and want to score and for me it was a long time coming," Dach said. "I felt confident in my game and I just knew I had to keep going and eventually it will go in."
Dach lifted a backhander over Bobrovsky's right shoulder off the rush.
"As a kid, I'd always kind of work on backhand shots and just getting that strength to hold pucks on your backhand side," Dach said. "I watched (Kane) growing up all the time and how well he uses his backhand and protects the puck on his backhand and shoots and passes with it. I kind of took that and tried to learn that at a young age to have that strength on that backhand side."
Dach now has seven goals and seven assists in 45 games this season.
"He's just got to keep getting better but he looks so confident with the puck," Colliton said. "His stick, he's just so heavy with it. He comes out of puck battles with it (and) he can get through the neutral zone. He just turned 19 ... (and) he shrugs guys off, he can fight through checks, he carries guys on his back through zones. He's making a big difference for us.
"I understand that production hasn't been there, what maybe people expect, but when I look at his game it's extremely positive with the progression he's making as the year has gone on," Colliton continued. "He can be a big part of hopefully our success in the second half."
There was plenty of emotion in the building with a pregame ceremony honoring Kane for recording his 1,000th career point on Sunday night against the Jets and then a video tribute to Quenneville at the first TV timeout that had the crowd standing and chanting 'Q' for an extended period of time.
"That felt unbelievable - it was a great feeling," Quenneville said. "(It) captured some special moments in the building when the enthusiasm and the excitement and the noise. It felt like a different game; it had some importance to it. It was special. It was kind of like saying 'Thank you' to me and I was thanking them and it was all good. That was certainly a memorable ovation I'm thankful for."
Quenneville also appreciated the Kane video tribute, which showed many highlight's from the winger's march to 1,000.
"I was watching some of those goals he scored and I remembered 'OK, that L.A. one-timer up the top part of the net (and) I don't know who's got the puck in Philly," Quenneville said with a smile. "Some great moments, big goals, huge goals. 'Kaner' was a privilege to coach. Very fortunate to coach some of the all-time great players in the game. He's a special player and you have to love players that want the puck and once they get it they can do a lot of things with it. He's as good as anybody in that area."
After the game, Quenneville caught up with Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
"I think that ovation was incredible," Toews said of Quenneville's tribute. "All of us that played for him were all smiles. His ovation might have been bigger than 'Kaner's,' I don't know. Close call. But, obviously, the fans showing him lots of respect and love so pretty cool to see."