Life is good for Richard Panik.
He closed out the 2015 calendar year with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, but was traded to Chicago for Jeremy Morin on the third day of 2016. Since then, he hasn’t seen his employer lose a game. And on Sunday night, Panik helped the Hawks make a little history.
Panik scored his first goal with the Blackhawks 2:40 into the first period as the Hawks and Habs did battle for the second time in less than a week.
Lars Eller tied the game at 6:16 and a fairly quick first period came to a close with the score tied. Chicago out-shot Montreal 10-6 and neither team took a penalty in the opening 20 minutes.
The second period saw the scoring favor the Hawks, and the penalty boxes get busy.
Torrey Mitchell went to the box twice in the first half of the second period, once for tripping Patrick Kane and the second for high-sticking Michal Rozsival. Chicago wasn’t able to convert on either power play, and gave Montreal an advantage back as Jonathan Toews hooked Tomas Plekanec with 35 seconds remaining n the second Mitchell penalty.
The teams spent some time 4-on-4, and Montreal’s first power play was cut short when Plekanec high-sticked Hossa. Toews left the penalty box and got involved immediately, scoring his 18th of the season (which was initially credited to Hossa).
Toews picked up his 19th of the season and second of the night 5:01 later to extend the lead to 3-1 in favor of the Hawks, which is where the scoreboard would rest as the second period came to a close. Through 40 minutes, Chicago held a 24-16 shot advantage and Corey Crawford was brilliant once again.
The Hawks allowed Montreal to dominate the first half of the third period and eventually the Canadiens were able to capitalize. Max Pacioretty scored a power play goal at 10:22 to cut the Blackhawks lead to only one. Like Chicago’s captain, Pacioretty – Montreal’s captain – picked up his 19th goal of the season.
Chicago’s lead stayed at one for only 71 seconds. That’s when Artemi Panarin and Kane connected for a beautiful tally.
Kane’s 29th of the year gave the Hawks just enough breathing room to finish their eleventh straight victory, tying the franchise record for consecutive wins.
Duncan Keith tried to hit Marian Hossa for a breakaway with an empty net in front of him, but a bouncing puck appeared to just barely get a piece of over Hossa’s stick… and still found its way into the net. Hossa’s eighth of the year – and 493rd of his career – closed the books on the Habs, making the score 5-2.
There was a lot to like in the final box score on Sunday night.
Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned to the lineup after missing a couple games and picked up right where he left off, collecting his eighth assist of the season on Panik’s goal in the first period. He was also credited with three blocked shots and two hits in 15:31 in the win.
Hossa (one goal, two assists), Toews (two goals) and Kane (one goal, one assist) led the Hawks offensively. Kane had a team-high seven shots on net, and finished tied with Teuvo Teravainen for the team lead with two takeaways. Toews won 10 of 18 faceoffs in the game.
Artem Anisomov and Phillip Danault also had strong nights for the Hawks. Anisimov won 11 of 18 faceoffs and was credited with an assist on Kane’s goal; he was also credited with one takeaway and one blocked shot. Danault won seven of 10 at the dot and blocked two shots with one hit in 15:32 for the evening.
Crawford made 27 saves to earn another victory.
The Hawks return to the ice Tuesday night in Nashville. Also of note, Bryan Bickell cleared waivers on Sunday and was assigned to Rockford.