|@ Panthers (27-15-5)||3||1||0||4|
The period started with Andrew Shaw being penalized for hooking Aleksander Barkov. The Panthers had some decent shots on their advantage but ultimately could not score. Most of the Panthers’ offense unsurprisingly came from the Jagr-Huberdeau-Barkov line. The Panthers’ defense looked sharp, though, and kept the Hawks from even getting a shot on goal in the first eight minutes of the game. The Hawks started to gain momentum but that was promptly ended when Reilly Smith got the puck past Darling from the left side. The goal was assisted by Jussi Jokinen. With 7:39 left in the period, the Blackhawks would get their first power play attempt because Erik Gudbranson was called for high sticking. Luongo had to make some saves to keep the Panthers in the lead, but Scott Darling had to make some saves as well. The Panthers seemed to be back to streak form. This claim was further proven when Brian Campbell scored a beautiful goal that Darling had no chance of saving. The goal was assisted by Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
With 2.1 seconds left in the period, the Panthers established their dominance to an even greater extent. Quinton Howden caught Darling off guard for a goal that killed the dreams of many a Blackhawks fan. At the end of the period, the Panthers led the Blackhawks 3-0 and they also led in shots on goal 13-8. The Panthers came out on fire this period and were able to completely dominate the Hawks in all respects. This is a rare feat for any team but especially the Panthers, who are coming off of a four game losing streak and are notorious for sacrificing offense for defense and vice versa. Since the Blackhawks played the Lighting last night, two things were certain: they would be a little tired but still dangerous and there would be even more Hawks fans at the game than usual. The Panthers will need to stay hot in the upcoming periods because it is clear that the Blackhawks will come out to play after their underwhelming first period.
There was reason to worry about the Blackhawks and their performance in the second, but the Panthers came out as strong as ever. Aaron Ekblad, on his first game back from injury, scored three minutes into the second. His presence was much needed tonight. The Panthers refused to make things easy for Darling tonight. He wasn’t particularly playing well but either was the Blackhawks’ defense, who seemed to be giving the Panthers more than enough chances to dominate. Erik Gudbranson showed Teuvo Teravainen how to do a backflip after a hit that made the entire crowd scream “ooooooh” even after the third replay. Brent Seabrook cross-checked Erik Gudbranson after the hit and was penalized for doing so. The Blackhawks were, however, able to kill the penalty. The Panthers and Blackhawks played some 4-on-4 hockey after a bit of a tussle in front of Luongo’s net. Roberto Luongo and Andrew Desjardins each got coincidental minors for roughing. This was the only time during the game so far that the Blackhawks actually got some quality shots in, but neither team scored during this time period. The Blackhawks would get the chance to keep shooting though because Nick Bjugstad was penalized for hooking. Alex Petrovic didn’t like that very much and began to fight Andrew Desjardins, which yielded five minute fighting majors for each party. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 4-0 and also led in shots on goal 22-15. The Panthers exceeded my expectations once again in the second period. They absolutely dominated in every aspect and did not give the Blackhawks much room to succeed. I’m not saying that the Blackhawks can’t still comeback, but it would certainly be an arduous task to complete, especially since the Panthers already got their magical third goal.
The Blackhawks were bound to turn their game on at some point and that point seemed to be the beginning of the third period. Thankfully, the Panthers were playing with the same passion and fire that they had played with in the first two frames. Roberto Luongo was especially early in the third. Before we knew it, the Blackhawks pulled Scott Darling and allowed for the extra attacker. This happened with 8:30 left in the period, which is a very risky decision by Quenneville. After Artemi Panarin was called for holding, Darling was forced to return to his net. The Panthers didn’t have a particularly great power play, but it was a decent way to kill time before more 6-on-5. The rest of the period was spent pulling Darling and bringing him back in. None of this worked and the Panthers shut the Blackhawks out 4-0.
Reilly Smith got the Panthers on the board midway through the first with his 50th career goal. Brian Campbell scored a beauty off of a great Barkov pass. Quinton Howden also knew how to end a period on a high when he scored with just seconds left in the first. Aaron Ekblad picked up right where he left off before his injury and made the game 4-0 to prove that he is integral to the Panthers’ success. It’s impossible to leave Erik Gudbranson out of this list after his highlight reel hit on Teuvo Teravainen. Then, of course, Roberto Luongo had another incredible game tonight and was awarded with his fourth shutout of the season.
The Panthers will be back at it tomorrow night, January 23rd, at home against the in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 pm ET. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.