By Brad Vandenberk
It’s the time of year when the Blackhawks players, and coaching staff, invite their mothers to enjoy the sun, sights and sounds that Florida has to offer. And why not throw a few road games in there while we’re at it. First stop Florida, where many of the former Blackhawks now reside playing with the Panthers.
The Hawks wanted to continue their dominate play against Eastern conference teams and gain some much needed points in the Central division. With a 5-0-1 record against the east side, and the Panthers starting off with an abysmal 3-6 record, this game was ripe for the picking.
Coach Q gave Corey Crawford the nod between the pipes, while savvy veteran Tim Thomas manned the net for the home team. Rookie Joakim Nordstrom was reassigned to Rockford early in the week for a little “seasoning” in the AHL. Nordstrom was set to be an early favourite for the penalty kill. Well the Hawks kill isn’t what it used to be sitting 28th overall, so Coach Q thought it would be ideal for him to get some more playing time west of Chicago. Brandon Pirri remains with the team after a big weekend, scoring his second of the year against the Maple Leafs and adding an assist.
Tuesday’s lines vs the Panthers:
Saad Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Kane Handzus Sharp Oduya Hjalmarsson
Bickell Kruger Shaw Leddy Brookbank
Bollig Pirri Smith
Michal Rozsival and Michael Kostka were the odd men out.
It didn’t take long for the Hawks’ youngster to get going. Pirri splits the Panthers D, but can’t get a shot off. Seabrook has a slight brain fart misplaying a puck allowing Tomas Kopecky to get the first Panther chance of the game. Crawford stopped Jonathan Huberdeau on a point blank shot. Bollig blocks a shot with the top of his helmet, sending pieces sky high. Kopecky must have whispered into the Hawks D man’s ears about how he remains pointless this season. Keith has a gaffe sending Kopecky in once again. He also turns Seabrook inside out. Someone’s pumped to play their old squad. The ice looked to be a bit rough, when the puck resembled more of a beach ball than frozen rubber. Hossa has some time in front of the net but Thomas covers the puck before Hossa could slide it in. Kris Versteeg and Aleksander Barkov break in on a 2 on 1 but Versteeg cannot beat Crawford. With 2:24 remaining in the stanza, Toews’ line dominates the play with Thomas showing his best Hasek impression flopping all over the crease. In the may lay Dmitry Kulikov gets called for hooking. The Hawks get one decent attempt on net during the PP, when Shaw tips a point shot from Sharp. The period ends with the Hawks outshooting the Panthers 12-6.
Toews takes the puck hard toward Thomas and gets called for goaltender interference just 22 seconds into the 2nd period. Panthers couldn’t get a good chance with Crawford stood tall and Handzus used his body. Florida pushes back on the Hawks with some scoring chances. Saad and Toews break in on a 2 on 1 with Saad loosing the puck. Kulikov again has trouble keeping up with the Hawks speed and sends Toews tumbling to the boards and gets called for interference.
On the power play, Duncan Keith sends a slap pass off Jonathan Toews stick and past Thomas giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Keith and Patrick Kane get the assists.
Brookbank, very noticeable, slides on his chest to break up a 2 on1. As the Panthers continue to push in the Hawks zone, Smith and Saad break out again 2 on 1. Smith rings it’s off the post. Huberdeau barely breaks through the Hawks D line and Handzus slides along the ice tripping the Calder trophy winner forcing a penalty shot. Crawford makes the save and the Hawks remain ahead 1-0. The Hawks begin to take point shots with Thomas fighting through screens. Pirri spots Leddy who almost beats Thomas with Bollig battling on the edge of the crease.
Bryan Bickell scores his second goal in as many games, grabbing his own rebound off his first shot and beating Thomas, Shaw and Hjalmarsson assists.
The period ends with Kane getting hit hard by Jesse Winchester. The Hawks continue to outshoot the Panthers 22-14 and lead 2-0.
The dreaded third periods begins with Kane and Sharp busting in on a 2 on 1. Florida responses when Versteeg heads the other way. Both teams are playing the back and forth game.
Just before the period is half over, the Panthers finally beat Crawford. Barkov finds Tomas Fleischmen in the slot and he rips it over Crawford 2-1.
Just over 2 minutes later, Seabrook sends a blind pass in front of his net to a wide open Kulikov who ignites the BB&T crowd tying it up at 2.
This is the third 2-goal lead the Hawks have squandered in the final period. They have been outscored 10-3 in the 3rd period.
The Hawks are determined to win this in regulation time and continue to send puck toward Tim Thomas. On a dump in, Shaw fires the puck directly at Thomas who saves it awkwardly and his forced to leave the game at the 2:59 mark of the period. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen calls him over to the bench and Thomas has trouble getting up after he tries a butterfly. Enter Jacob Markstrom. The Hawks can’t solve the cold net minder and overtime is required.
During the overtime period the Hawks get multiple chances to finish this game. Sharp breaks in and Markstrom saves it. Saad chooses to keep the puck on a 2 on 1 and again the big goalie rises to the occasion. Kane breaks in all alone and flips his backhand wide. The zamboni’s head out to clear the ice for the shootout.
Toews opens the shootout heading in at a good pace and slips it through Markstrom’s five hole.
Huberdeau tries to beat Crawford on the backhand but to no avail.
Kane moves in to almost a stop and doesn’t get a shot off with Markstrom poke checking.
Brad Boyes tries to beat Crawford between the legs but Crawford is there.
Sharp streaks in and with his patented forehand backhand move, he beats Markstrom giving the Hawks the 3-2 SO win.
-Hawks outshot the Panthers 29-22
-Hawks go 1/2 on the power play while the Panthers go 0/1.
-Toews was a beast in the face off dot winning 15/21, Handzus 6/10, Kruger 3/4 , Shaw 5/13
-Duncan Keith Led all hawks in TOI with 23:26, Oduya was next with 21:39.
-Hawks continue their road trip with a visit to Tampa Bay on Thursday night.