A pair of first-period goals, another tally early in the second and solid goaltending to maintain the lead.
It all added up to success for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, as Chicago defeated the visiting Florida Panthers 3-2 to end a four-game skid and begin a six-game homestand on a high note.
“We needed the win,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We needed something good to happen to us. We probably deserved a bit better on the trip, but that doesn’t get you anywhere. We’ve got to earn some momentum, and I think we’ve done that. Now it’s up to us to do something with it.”
Chicago will try to notch successive victories for the first time since Feb. 23 and 25 when it hosts the Panthers on Thursday.
Tuesday’s game marked the Panthers’ first loss to the Blackhawks in five meetings this season.
“I think we just had a bit of a slow start and kind of dug ourselves a bit of a hole,” Florida’s Noel Acciari said. “I liked our end of the second (period) and most of the third. We didn’t give up. We played until the buzzer. I think we’ve got to figure out how to come out with a stronger start.”
Florida, which has lost three of four, encountered an unexpected roadblock before its latest defeat, as captain and leading scorer Aleksander Barkov was a late scratch with a lower-body injury.
Barkov, who skated briefly in pregame warmups, is considered day-to-day.
“You can’t replace that guy,” said Acciari, who centered the Panthers’ top line in Barkov’s place. “He’s very valuable to us. We definitely missed him out there.”
Make no mistake, the Blackhawks weren’t exactly pining for Barkov to be back on the ice anytime soon, as he tormented Chicago for nine points in the teams’ first four games of the season.
After being outscored 26-13 while going 1-5 on a six-game trip to Dallas, Florida and Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks were in dire need of a stabilizing force in net. Rookie Kevin Lankinen provided it, stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced.
Lankinen, who was 0-2-1 with an .869 save percentage in three previous starts against the Panthers, credited recent work with Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, who has stressed the importance of patience and locating pucks in traffic.
“That brings a lot of confidence when you practice something and it develops in your game and you feel really good out there,” Lankinen said. “It was good. It was a good night.”
The Panthers are 0-2 to begin a five-game road trip that is set to conclude with games in Dallas on Saturday and Sunday. After winning four of five on a trip to Nashville, Carolina and Columbus at the beginning of March, Florida has lost successive road games for the first time this season.
Dominik Kubalik has a six-game points streak for Chicago, contributing two goals and four assists during that span.
Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe has tallied at least one point in six of his past eight games.
–Field Level Media