Mike Hoffman, the hottest scorer on the Panthers at the moment, found the back of the net for the fifth straight game when he bested Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford on a breakaway with an absolutely filthy forehand-to-backhand deke that made it 1-0 at 4:07 of the first period.
But at 12:54, Jonathan Toews got the game even when he set up just outside the crease before re-directing a slap shot into the back of the net to make it 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
In the second period, Chicago shot ahead when Drake Caggiula re-directed Connor Murphy's long slap shot from the point past Sergei Bobrovsky and into the twine to make it 2-1 at 6:21.
After pelting Crawford with shots throughout the third period, Mike Matheson finally managed to break through for the Panthers, wiring home a wrist shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 break to tie things up at 2-2 with 1:28 left on the clock to secure a point and get the game to overtime.
Over the final two periods, the Panthers outshot the Blackhawks 32-12.
"Matheson had a huge goal for us," said Hoffman, who assisted on the tally. "One point is better than none. We had our opportunities in overtime. It seems like you've got to capitalize on your chances. We didn't do that, and it usually comes back to bite you in the [butt], which it did."
Like Hoffman said, the Panthers had more than a few good looks in the extra frame, but simply couldn't sneak one past Crawford. In the shootout, Toews and Patrick Kane each scored for the Blackhawks, while Crawford stopped both shooters he faced to secure the 3-2 win for Chicago.
Bobrovsky finished with 27 saves on 29 shots, while Crawford turned aside 38 of 40.
"He made so many great saves," Matheson said of Bobrovsky, who also made three key stops in overtime. "He's been huge. He's been rock-solid the last stretch here. That's what we need. He's one of the best goalies in the league for it."
In earning one point tonight, the Panthers (33-25-7) now currently sit just three points behind Columbus for the second and final wild card spot into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. "A lot to sort out, a lot of hockey left," Quenneville said. "We've got to help ourselves."
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's overtime loss in Sunrise…
1. NO HELP NEEDED
Hoffman didn't need any help to break the ice tonight.
Sent up the ice on a breakaway after breaking up a pass in the defensive zone, Hoffman skated down the left boards before cutting sharply toward the net. Moving the puck from his forehand to his backhand, he then sent a shot past Crawford to put Florida up 1-0 at 4:07 of the first period.
Video: CHI@FLA: Hoffman beats Crawford on breakaway
"I'm trying to do what I can to help this team win and collect points," Hoffman said. "Any time you can get on the board is a bonus."
Playing his best hockey when it matters the most, Hoffman is currently riding a seven-game point streak in which he's registered six goals and three assists. Suiting up in 65 games this season, the 30-year-old winger ranks first on the Panthers in goals (27) and third in points (56).
In tonight's loss, Hoffman fired off a game-high seven shots on goal.
2. IN THE CLUTCH
Matheson came up in the clutch to make sure Florida got at least one point tonight.
Poking the puck past a defender to set up a 2-on-1 break with Jonathan Huberdeau, Matheson opted to take the shot rather than pass, ripping a wrister from the center of the right circle past Crawford and into the back of the cage to tie the game 2-2 with 1:28 remaining in regulation.
Video: CHI@FLA: Matheson buries late game-tying wrist shot
"It was a great play, getting to that puck there behind the defenseman and then taking it to the net," Quenneville said of the goal. "On a 2-on-1, he made the right shot. A huge goal for us."
If you don't count defenseman-turned-forward Mark Pysyk, Matheson leads the Panthers with eight goals this season - just two shy of his career high. Notching his 20th point of the season tonight, the 26-year-old has now reached the 20-point plateau for the third consecutive year.
"To be able to get it to overtime was really important," Matheson said.
3. STANDING TALL
Although he didn't get the win, Bobrovsky had himself another great game.
Stopping 27 of 29 shots, the 31-year-old stood on his head throughout the night, especially in the first period as the Panthers weathered Chicago's offensive onslaught. In fact, of his saves, 13 came within the first 20 minutes, including several originating high-danger areas on the ice.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Bobrovsky finished with five high-danger stops.
"He had some great looks at him in overtime and in the third period," Quenneville said. "He stood tall. He followed the puck, tracked some dangerous looks coming down the barrel."
Like Hoffman, Bobrovsky is also coming online at the right time. Over his last six starts, he's gone 3-2-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. "We're going to need him every game here going forward," Quenneville said.
4. BIG NIGHT ON THE KILL
The Panthers benefited from a perfect night on the penalty kill against Chicago.
Awarding the Blackhawks all three of power plays in the first period, Florida's killers managed to limit the opposition to a mere two shots on goal and seven shot attempts on the man advantage.
"We took three straight penalties in the first, so basically six straight minutes in our end," Quenneville said. "We did a good job of not giving up quality [shots] there."
Over their last six games, the Panthers have gone 11-for-12 (91.7 percent) on the penalty kill.
5. A QUICK TURNAROUND
The Panthers won't have to wait long for a chance to get back into the win column.
After tonight's overtime loss, the Cats will now look to make it points in consecutive games when they wrap up a back-to-back set with a home matchup against Calgary at 4 p.m. ET. "We have to make sure we come excited to play tomorrow," Matheson said of the crucial tilt. "Like I said, we played really well in the second and third periods. We need to carry that over."
In their previous meeting this season, Florida lost 6-5 in a shootout on the road on Oct. 24. "Get some rest, get up in the morning and prepare the right way," Quenneville said. "A four o'clock start is an interesting game. And, hey, be ready against a dangerous team. Calgary's got a lot of ability. They've got some talent. Everybody needs points in the worst way."
Like the Cats, Calgary will also be playing on short rest after losing 4-3 in Tampa Bay tonight.
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