Artemi Panarin's four-point night lifts Blackhawks past Jets in OT


Artemi Panarin's four-point night lifts Blackhawks past Jets in OT

By Jeff Hamilton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba. – After the morning skate, hours before puck drop against the Winnipeg Jets Friday night at the MTS Centre, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville warned about the dangers of the Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane line.

In this case, what sparked the conversation was the trio’s lack of explosiveness over the last stretch of games. Kane, who despite being the NHL’s leading scorer with 39 goals and 94 points heading into the night, had just two assists in his last five games. Panarin, who will surely be a finalist for top rookie come season’s end, had just two points in his last nine.

“They still get looks in games, they’re still dangerous,” insisted Quenneville. “They get a lot of attention from our opponents but I still think every time they hit the ice they’re a threat to score and there’s a lot of danger in their game.”

That “danger” was on full display Friday, as Panarin finished with a season-high four points to lead the Hawks — the eighth time this season Panarin has recorded at least three points in a game.

[MORE: Duncan Keith suspended six games, will miss first postseason game]

He opened the scoring for the Hawks in the first period, set up Patrick Kane for his 40th of the year in the second, evened the score at 4-4 in the third and capped off a 2-on-1 play with a nifty pass to Brent Seabrook for the game-winning goal at the 1:02 mark of overtime.

As for Kane, he finished with a two-point night with an assist on Panarin’s first-period goal, extending his NHL-leading point-total to 96.

“When they get some speed through the middle of the ice they kind of have a pretty good idea of where the other guy is going to end up," said Quenneville after the game. "They find lanes and seams like they did on the power play and on 5-on-5 and they get through some nights and their finish is excellent."

As impressive as the Hawks’ top line was, the victory was far from a thing of beauty. The Hawks surrendered two separate leads in the game, and were trailing 4-3 late in the third period. They were also short a few guys in the second period, losing Jonathan Toews, who took a Niklas Hjalmarsson shot to the side of the head, and Trevor van Riemsdyk, both of who returned for the third. Andrew Shaw had just one shift in the second period but had to leave the game.

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Blake Wheeler scored twice, and Dustin Byfuglien and rookie Nic Petan each added a goal to keep the game close for the Jets.

“I definitely think it’s a confidence booster looking forward knowing we can be down and get a big goal, get it to overtime, do whatever we need to do to get the two points,” said Seabrook, who’s OT winner was his 14th of the season.

Seabrook’s late heroics were a high note for the Blackhawks, who started the evening on a low one.

Just before puck drop, news broke that Duncan Keith had been suspended six games for his high-stick on Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Wild. With Friday’s game included in the suspension, Keith will miss just one playoff game.

As for the rest of the team, the Hawks return home from the four-game trip with a 3-1 record, improving to 45-26-7 on the season. The win also extends their lead to six points on the idle Nashville Predators for third spot in the Central Division and just four points short of St. Louis, who lost 6-5 to Boston.

Scott Darling allowed four goals on 32 shots to improve to 10-8-3.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.