NEW YORK – Artemi Panarin came up smiling, despite taking an unnecessary chop to the legs from Keith Yandle.
Scoring his first NHL hat trick apparently nixed any discomfort the Blackhawks forward may have been feeling.
Panarin scored two power-play goals – the second being the game-winner – and added an empty-net goal late for that hat trick as the Blackhawks beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks, who have won two in a row, regained first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars, who were idle tonight, are one point back; the Stars still have three games in hand.
Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw also scored. Teuvo Teravainen had two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 34 shots for the victory.
Panarin is the first NHL rookie to 20 goals this season – he has 22 after this one. For his teammates, seeing what Panarin has done this season has been reason to smile; for Jonathan Toews, it’s also reason to rib Panarin’s line mate, Patrick Kane.
“I’ve been bugging Kaner about those two games that [Panarin] missed, that Kaner didn’t seem quite himself out there for those two games,” Toews said. “All kidding aside, Bread Man has been great for us this year, whether on that line or tonight with the second unit that went on for the power play. He wants to score, and when he gets a few here and there he plays with so much more confidence and energy. He can go out there and make things happen every single shift. You saw that again tonight.”
As big as Panarin’s night was, it was ultimately the Blackhawks’ power play that proved the difference for the second consecutive game. They scored three power-play goals – two from Panarin and one from Shaw – against the Rangers after scoring four against Toronto on Monday night.
So what gives with that?
“We’re moving the puck well, we’re shooting the puck and winning the battles,” Teravainen said. “Sometimes it just goes in.”
It’s been going in a lot these last two games. At the start of the third period, however, it was more about what the Blackhawks were allowing.Vinnie Hinostroza took a four-minute high-sticking at the end of the second period and the Rangers made the Blackhawks pay for it in the third. Derick Brassard scored the first goal just 24 seconds into the third and Dan Boyle added his power-play goal about two minutes later; just like that, the Blackhawks, up 3-2 entering the third, were down 4-3.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
But the power play and Panarin had the final says in the third period. Shaw scored his power-play goal midway through the third period to tie the game 3-3. Panarin scored his second power-play goal with three minutes remaining in regulation, then added his empty-net effort with 1:11 remaining.
The chop that sent Panarin sliding into the boards late Wednesday probably would have angered the young forward if it had happened at another point in the game. Since it was after collecting that hat trick, he just greeted it with the same grin he’s displayed after each of his 22 goals this season.
“He’s been great for us, be it the consistency, the contribution to that line, the power play, puck possession game, our offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “From day 1 he’s been fun to watch. He’s enjoying himself here.”