CHI - J. Toews (27), PPG - D. Keith (3), P. Kane (11)
CHICAGO (AP) - The pretty stretch pass that Patrick Kane snapped off to set up a breakaway goal for Jonathan Toews was nice, but the wrist shot that he zipped past Florida Panthers goalie Jose Theodore on Friday night brought an even bigger smile.
"We need to start pushing in the right direction and not keep falling back. To create opportunities, we need to get pucks at the net. We simply have not been doing that enough."
- Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen
1. Getting Healthier: The Panthers got just a little bit healthier Friday night as the Chicago game marked the return of three more forwards. Florida, who at one time in late December played without seven forwards due to injury, now has just Marco Sturm missing action after Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim returned to the lineup. The trio has missed a combined 55 games this season. Upshall had been out since November 10th (hip), missing 30 games alone while Skille went out December 18th with an upper body injury (13 games) and Bergenheim sat out on December 20th with a lower body injury (12 games). Even though the trio failed to find the scoresheet, it has to be a welcome sign as the Panthers look to regain their winning form of earlier in the season.
2. Momentum Shift Late In The First: It's amazing how quickly momentum can swing in a game. Florida was buzzing around the Blackhawks net and might have scored on two different shots by the top line if not for Ray Emery. A third attempt went wide of the net and into the corner. Viktor Stalberg got to the puck and passed it up to Patrick Kane in the neutral zone. There he found Hawks captain Jonathan Toews just outside the Panthers zone. The Hawks captain raced around Cats defenseman Jason Garrison. With the step, Toews went to the backhand and beat Jose Theodore to give the home team a 1-0 lead with 2:20 left on the clock. Trailing by one after one might have not been bad but that wasn't the case. Chicago received a power play late in the opening period as Keaton Ellerby went off for boarding with 1:44 on the clock. Florida looked like they might be able to get to the dressing room trailing by one but Duncan Keith made them pay for the penalty as he fired a laser over Theodore's shoulder with 16.4 seconds remaining. Advantage 2-0 for the Hawks after one period of play.
3. Unable To Stop A Streak: The Hawks added to their lead in the second with a Kane goal on the rush while the Panthers could only get a power play goal by Garrison in the third to deny Emery of the shutout bid. It was a tough go of it as the Panthers were limited to just 19 shots on net over the 60 minutes as the Hawks played a stifling defense all night long. Up by two after one, they could manage to do that. The game seemed to be a defensive struggle the whole night as the two teams combined for 41 shots. For Florida, not only was it a struggle Friday night, it's been a struggle on the road in general as they have now lost eight straight away from the BankAtlantic Center. They have alternated regulation and overtime/shootout losses over that run. The Panthers offense has only scored 13 goals over that span (1.625 goals a game) while the defense has allowed 35 goals (4.375).
Memorable twitter posts from the game.
@FlaPnthrsPunk: This #Flapanthers slump has to stop NOW. Offense was nowhere to been seen. Must win tomorrow in the Peg. Thank god the #Caps lost.
@N1CKELC0BALT: Wonder if #FlaPanthers will win another game in January?
@Ewener: It's hard to #SeeRed when #FlaPanthers play of recent is reminiscent of years past #playoffs?
@johnrolandvan: we need more #shots #shots #shots #shots #shots #shots .... 19 not enough to win hockey games guys ...#FlaPanthers .... disappointed in CDN
@SFX_Cow: #FlaPanthers I'll take the tough loss to a really good #Blackhawks team. Least Washington lost so 1st place is still in our grasp...for now
Memorable fan posts from the game.
Dave G.: Wow. what a stinker. It was expected that they'll slump, but this is turning into a huge letdown. Let's hope they pull themselves together fast! On to the Jets!
Jeff Bye: On to the Jets......Go CATS!!
Gabriel DeSimone: the Caps lost, take that as a win. I guess.
Kyle Pehlke: Not Good :\
Jose Ramirez: Ok. Throw the team under the bus. What is really sad is that when this team wins you see everyone saying how great they play and how they are so great. When the Panthers are in a slump you have about 4 posts about the game. The team is in a slump. They are tops in the league for days lost due to injuries. This is a good team. They will recover and make the playoffs.
5. It took Florida just five seconds to score on their third power play of the night. Jason Garrison scored on a bomb from the point just five seconds into the man advantage and 43 seconds into the third period. It was Garrison's 13th of the season and eighth on the man advantage. 12. The Panthers were extremely physical against the Blackhawks, outhitting the home team by 12. Florida picked up 34 hits on the night. Dmitry Kulikov led the way as he was credited with seven hits on the night. Mike Weaver was second on the team with five.
30. The start of the game was pushed back a half hour due to inclement weather as it took the Panthers bus longer than expected to get from the hotel to the arena. 41. Florida and Chicago combined for 41 shots on net Friday night (Florida with 19). It was the lowest combined total this season, as it was two less than the previous low of 43 which was registerd on December 9th at Buffalo. 123. The Blackhawks struck twice late in the opening period to stake themselves to a two-goal lead. First it was Jonathan Toews scoring with 2:20 left on the clock. Then it was Duncan Keith scoring with 16.4 seconds remaining.
Set up the eventual game-winner as he sprung the Hawks captain and then scored to make it 3-0 on the rush with a low shot for a two-point night.
The Panthers conclude their three-game road trip, looking for their first win of the trip as they play the second of back-to-back nights in Winnipeg. The two teams have split their previous two meetings this season with the visitors skating away the victors. In their last meeting, Kris Versteeg scored the first hat trick of his NHL career in helping Florida to a 5-2 victory in Winnipeg on November 10th. The Jets sit just three points behind the Panthers in the Southeast and their 49 points currently have them in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg is led offensively by Blake Wheeler (33 points in 45 games) and Evander Kane (18 goals, 31 points in 46 games) while Ondrej Pavelec has gotten the majority of the games in goal, posting a 16-16-5 record with a .910 save percentage and 2.83 goals against average.