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game recap

Panthers score seven, shut out Blackhawks

Jonathan Marchessault's hat trick helps Florida keep pace in wild-card race

NHL.com @NHL

The Florida Panthers kept pace in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Eastern Conference with a 7-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at BB&T Center on Saturday.

Florida (33-30-11) is seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the playoffs with eight games remaining.

"When we play the right way, keep things simple and use our legs, that's exactly what we're capable of doing," Panthers coach Tom Rowe said. "We talked about this kind of being a big game for us to kind of judge where we are and what we can do."

 

WATCH: All Blackhawks vs. Panthers highlights

 

Jonathan Marchessault scored his first NHL hat trick and James Reimer made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season.

"I thought we played well," Reimer said. "Obviously, they're a good team. In the second period, we just got going. … First [shutout] as a Panther. That's nice. The guys worked hard. They played hard. I mean, if they get seven every night, I like our chances."

Video: Reimer earns Saturday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout

Chicago (48-21-6) remained eight points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference. The Wild lost 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and have one game in hand on the Blackhawks.

"Every game is different," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "That was an ugly, ugly game, the way it ended up. For 30 minutes, it was probably heading in the right direction. The fact of whether it was complacency [or not], the way it ended, it wasn't good enough."

Aleksander Barkov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead on the first shot of the second period. Jonathan Huberdeau carried the puck through the neutral zone before threading a pass between Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jonathan Toews to Barkov, who shot over Corey Crawford's glove at 17 seconds.

Video: CHI@FLA: Marchessault finishes rush for natural hatty

Florida extended its lead after Ryan Hartman was called for two penalties, hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct, at 7:20 of the second period. Marcus Kruger went off for interference at 9:38, which gave the Panthers 1:42 of a 5-on-3. Huberdeau shot a one-timer inside the right post to make it 2-0 at 10:21.

"We were going along fine and then that one play changed the complexion of the game," Quenneville said. "At that point, whether it was the frustration, complacency or no compete, it wasn't fun after that point."

Barkov and Huberdeau each had three points (one goal, two assists) in the second period.

Marchessault pushed the lead to 3-0 at 11:40 of the second, 4-0 at 4:59 of the third, and completed his natural hat trick to make it 5-0 at 7:13.

Scott Darling replaced Crawford, who made 21 saves on 25 shots, after Marchessault's second goal. Darling made three saves on six shots.

Nick Bjugstad made it 6-0 at 7:53 before Reilly Smith made it 7-0 at 11:45.

Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr left in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Video: CHI@FLA: Huberdeau rips a one-timer past Crawford

 

Goal of the game

Huberdeau passed through the slot to Barkov, who moved it back across to Marchessault to the left of the net. Marchessault dropped to one knee and shot past a sliding Crawford for his first goal.

Video: CHI@FLA: Marchessault buries one-timer from circle

 

Saves of the game

Hjalmarsson turned the puck over to Bjugstad in the middle of the Blackhawks zone. Bjugstad sent a wrist shot on goal that Crawford turned away with a glove save. Bjugstad followed up with an attempted tip-in one second later, but Crawford denied him again and froze the puck at 17:29 of the first period.

Video: CHI@FLA: Crawford stops Bjugstad on the doorstep

 

Highlight of the game

Barkov slid a pass to Huberdeau to the right of the net, where he shot between Crawford and the post for his seventh goal of the season.

Video: CHI@FLA: Barkov picks the corner with sharp wrister

 

Unsung performance of the game

Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck had two assists, one block and one takeaway, and was one of two Florida forwards to have two hits.

 

They said it

"Team, fans, owners, everybody needed a feel-good day. We said, 'Let's take it one at a time and see what happens'" -- Panthers coach Tom Rowe

 

"If we continue to play like that and think we're going to turn it on come playoff time, we've got another thing coming." -- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews

 

Need to know

Toews did not extend his point streak to seven games. He had seven points (three goals, four assists) on a six-game streak. … The Panthers played without defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who missed a second straight game. He injured his neck against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, when he returned from missing four games because of a concussion. ... Reimer signed with the Panthers as a free agent this offseason.

 
What's next

Blackhawks: At the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, CSN-CH, NHL.TV)

Panthers: At the Buffalo Sabres on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-F, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Marchessault, Reimer lead Panthers past Hawks, 7-0

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