Blackhawks lose late lead, fall to Kings in overtime

Blackhawks lose late lead, fall to Kings in overtime

LOS ANGELES – The end result for Game 82 wasn't what the Blackhawks hoped but the disappointment was pretty short lived.

The first 82 are over. Time to flip the page.

Artemi Panarin scored his 31st goal of the season to get himself back into potential bonus category but the Los Angeles Kings scored late in regulation and early in overtime to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Saturday. The Blackhawks finished the regular season 0-2-2 in their last four. None of those four factored in the Blackhawks' place in the standings; they had the conference wrapped up last Saturday.

Now the Blackhawks look ahead, although as of this writing they still don't know who they'll play. Could be Nashville, could be Calgary. Regardless, the Blackhawks are ready for the games to count again.

"I think that energy, that ambition, that motivation is back. We have that feeling that every single moment, every single game matters. It's a lot of fun to play this time of year," said Jonathan Toews, who scored his 21st goal of the season on Saturday. "That's why we work all year to get to this point. As we've said in the past, the real season begins. Everyone wants to get back to playoff hockey."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Blackhawks tickets right here!]

Coach Joel Quenneville pointed to the Blackhawks' work earlier this season that made the end easier to take. 

"It would've been nice to win [Saturday] but we put ourselves in position we wanted at the start of the season. That was our motivation. It's good to be first in the division and we got the conference," he said. "Lot of hard work, some ups and downs along the way but we had a stretch here at the end where, I don't know how many games where everything was sealed so it was almost like, ‘OK, let's get ready to play for keeps.'"

The Blackhawks almost got back to the postseason on a winning note but the Kings, who will not be going to the playoffs, had other ideas. Dustin Brown scored with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and Drew Doughty scored the winner just 27 seconds into overtime.

Before the Kings' comeback, however, there was Panarin's goal. The Russian was jubilant, as that goal gave him a better chance of finishing in the top 10 among forwards in points. If he does, he'll collect $2.575 million like he did last season. As of now, he's tied for ninth with fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko with 74 points.

"Great pass by [Patrick Kane]. Big goal, big time for a goal as well. I think it might turn out OK," a grinning Quenneville said of Panarin's likely financial windfall.

The regular season was a successful one for the Blackhawks. They're where they want to be, with home ice throughout the Western Conference portion of the postseason. They'll go in fairly healthy – Artem Anisimov (left leg) is expected to be ready for Game 1. Niklas Hjalmarsson, who's been attending family matters at home, will return, too. The first 82 are done. Time for what Brent Seabrook called the, "fun hockey." 

"Don't know if [the start] will be Thursday or Friday but we're all looking forward to it," Ryan Hartman said. "New chapter."

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.