After splitting in Dallas to open the road trip, the Blackhawks headed to the east side of Florida for a couple games against the Panthers. Kevin Lankinen was back in net and Ian Mitchell returned to the lineup after watching both games against the Stars from the taxi squad.
For about 25 minutes, it looked like the Hawks had their act together.
Chicago out-shot Florida 12-6 in the first period and the Hawks did a nice job of limited the Panthers’ chances. Neither team scored in the opening 20 but the Blackhawks had to feel pretty good about their performance in the first.
The Hawks opened the second period with a bang. Brandon Hagel and Dominik Kubalik executed a perfect give-and-go that ended with Hagel’s second goal of the season.
Kubalik and David Kampf picked up the assists on the play.
Moments later, Radko Gudas absolutely unloaded on Carl Soderberg in the neutral zone. It was a good, clean, heavy hit and it appeared to wake up the Panthers as much as it planted Soderberg.
Aleksander Barkov was having a terrific night and he tied the game at 7:46 into the second period.
Three minutes later, Carter Verhaeghe gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Verhaeghe had three points in the two games played in Florida between these two teams earlier in the year and was effective throughout this game as well.
Frank Vatrano made the score 3-1 only 79 seconds after the Verhaeghe goal and the Blackhawks were now chasing it badly.
The Panthers shut the Blackhawks down over the final 15 minutes of the second period and took the two-goal lead to the room for the second intermission. Florida out-shot the Hawks 13-7 in the second period with three of those 13 finding the back of the net.
The Hawks desperately needed to score first in the third period to get back into the game. Florida didn’t care, and the Hawks didn’t handle the puck well enough to do much with it. It took ten minutes for the next goal to be scored and it came off the stick of Barkov again.
Joel Quenneville changed his lines in the second period and one line took over the game. Anthony Duclair was credited with his third assist of the night on Barkov’s second goal. Verhaeghe was also credited with an assist for his second point of the night. Barkov assisted on Verhaeghe’s goal, giving him three points as well.
This felt a lot like the game against Tampa one week ago when the Blackhawks went up three and then got trashed. Unfortunately in this one, the Hawks had a one-goal advantage when the offensive well went dry and Florida is simply too talented and well coached (ahem) to not take advantage of the mistakes Chicago was making.
Down three and desperate, Adam Boqvist unloaded from the point and slipped the puck through Sergei Bobrovsky somehow. Chicago was within two with 92 seconds left in regulation.
Of course the Blackhawks called their timeout after the goal and lost the following faceoffs. Lankinen went to the bench for an extra attacker with 70 seconds left.
The Hawks didn’t get another one past Bobrovsky and the Blackhawks dropped the first game in Florida by a 4-2 score.
After putting 12 shots on net in the first 20 minutes, Chicago was held to 14 shots over the following 37 minutes. The Hawks finished the night with 27 shots on net. Lankinen stopped 33 of 37.
Patrick Kane was credited with a team-leading six shots on net. He picked up an assist on the Boqvist goal.
The faceoff circle continues to be a huge problem. Florida won 66 percent of the draws in this game, making any comeback attempt nearly impossible.
Chicago had four power plays in the game that were all failures.