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."

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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."

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 3 win over Canucks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 3 win over Canucks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After bouncing back with a 4-2 in Game 2, the Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage by routing the Canucks 5-2 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Dustin Byfuglien's coming out party

One of the greatest coaching decisions of Joel Quenneville's illustrious career is moving Byfuglien from defense to forward in the middle of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run. In a recent sit-down interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Quenneville sheepishly admitted he can't take all the credit for that because different coaches experimented with Byfuglien at forward while he was working his way to the pros.

But it was certainly a playoff-changing moment.

After going pointless in his first eight postseason contests, Byfuglien netted a hat trick while playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and was an absolute pest as the net-front guy on the first power-play unit. He finished with six shots on goal and a game-high six hits in 15:53 of ice time.

"He is a handful in front of the net or for goalies," Quenneville said. "He brought that element, that versatility, you could use him in either situation and of course in the middle of the game, so I think he brought a unique aspect to our team."

2. Lack of discipline

In the playoffs, officials tend to swallow their whistles and let the players play. But this game was not one of them.

In the first period alone, the Blackhawks and Canucks combined for eight minor penalties; each team was penalized four times. Hooking. Tripping. Too many men. Roughing. Interference. You name it. 

The Blackhawks cleaned up their act in the final two periods, committing only one minor penalty the rest of the game. That wasn't the case for the Canucks, who racked up 36 total penalty minutes. A lack of discipline was evident for both teams, but one team took advantage and the other did not, which leads us to our final bullet point...

3. Penalty kill remains on fire

Speaking of special teams, the Blackhawks won that department and it's the primary reason they came away with a victory in Game 3. In fact, it seemed like all series long, whichever team won the special teams battle often won the game.

The Blackhawks scored two of their five goals on the power play in this game and could've been credited with a third but the penalty had just expired before Kris Versteeg scored goal an even-strength goal. But more importantly, they went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill to continue a ridiculous postseason streak.

After another perfect performance, the Blackhawks improved to 38-for-41 on the penalty kill through their first nine contests for a percentage of 92.7. The Blackhawks had also scored two shorthanded goals to that point, so their postseason goal differential shorthanded was only minus-1. Just an incredible stat.

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Blackhawks release Jim Cornelison-assisted video promoting the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund

Blackhawks release Jim Cornelison-assisted video promoting the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund

The Blackhawks announced on March 18th, that they are launching a donation-matching initiative with the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. They promoted the initiative with a video launched on social media, where Jim Cornelison sings the national anthem over black-and-white shots of Chicago imploring Chicagoans to "Joins us and stand up for Chicago."

The Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund seeks to "rapidly deploy resources to local nonprofit organizations serving the most vulnerable residents in the Chicago region as a result of the public health, social and economic consequences of COVID-19." Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews recently donated $100,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund through the Jonathan Toews Foundation.