Panik leads Blackhawks past Panthers in shootout
By Tom Musick, The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO -- Richard Panik tried to stay positive as his goal-scoring drought stretched across five weeks and 17 games.
On Tuesday night, the Chicago right winger’s patience paid off. He scored once in regulation and scored again in the shootout round to lift the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“Those goals I scored at the beginning of the season, I was in front of the net,” said Panik, 25, who scored six goals in the first six games of the season before falling into a lengthy slump. “I just tried to focus on that -- going to the front of the net -- but they didn’t go in. It wasn’t a good feeling, but now it’s good.”
Nearly everything is good for the Blackhawks this season when they play on home ice.
Chicago (15-6-3) improved to 9-1-2 at the United Center with the shootout victory. The Blackhawks have not lost in regulation on home ice since dropping the season opener Oct. 12 against the St. Louis Blues.
Along with Panik, Blackhawks left winger Artemi Panarin also scored during the shootout round. Chicago earned its sixth win out of nine games that have reached overtime or a shootout round.
Right winger Jaromir Jagr scored in regulation for the Panthers. Florida (11-10-2) salvaged a point on the road in the coaching debut of Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant two days earlier.
Rowe was upbeat despite the disappointing finish.
”I‘m really proud of the guys,“ Rowe said. ”The effort was incredible to come into Chicago and give yourself a chance to win the game, and then we tie it up and we get a point.
“We earned the point -- actually, I thought we earned two points -- but it didn’t work out in our favor. Like I said earlier, we have a lot to build on.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford turned aside 38 of 39 shots in regulation and overtime. Crawford stymied Panthers centers Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov during the shootout round.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 32 of 33 shots in regulation and overtime for the Panthers.
Panik scored on a short breakaway to give Chicago a 1-0 lead with 2:50 to play in the first period. He raced in from the blue line and swept a backhand shot under Luongo’s glove for his seventh goal.
The Panthers evened the score at 1 on Jagr’s power-play goal in the first minute of the third period. Left winger Jonathan Marchessault swept the puck toward the crease, and Jagr quickly chipped a shot past Crawford for his fourth goal of the season and the 753rd goal of his career.
The only players in NHL history who have scored more goals than Jagr are Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). Jagr also notched his 1,880th career point on the goal, which drew him within seven of matching Mark Messier for second all-time.
“I thought Jagr was unreal,” Rowe said. “It’s a pleasure when you have a guy like him and his status, Hall of Famer, and he gives you the effort like he gives tonight. It was unbelievable.”
Crawford preserved the tie with a highlight-reel save with 13:45 remaining in the third period. After he fell down and lost his stick, he spotted a slap shot from Panthers center Derek MacKenzie. Crawford used his glove to deflect the shot off the post and smothered the puck for a whistle.
“Really grateful for Corey being behind us,” Panarin said through an interpreter. “If it weren’t for him, the last couple games would turn out differently, that’s for sure. We’re lucky to have him.”
Meanwhile, Panthers players spoke with optimism after the first game with their new coach.
“We feel that we are on the right track with this game today and obviously after the events that happened before this,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “I think we are moving forward and in the right direction based on the way we played today.”
NOTES: Florida Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe made his debut behind the bench two days after the team named him to replace Gerard Gallant, who was fired. Rowe, 60, was a head coach in the AHL and in Russia’s KHL before he joined the Panthers’ front office earlier this year. ... Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews missed his third consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. ... Panthers D Alex Petrovic missed his eighth straight game because of a lower-body injury. ... Blackhawks RW Jordin Tootoo returned after a one-game absence because of a lower-body injury. ... Panthers RW Jaromir Jagr played his 1,652nd career game, which tied him for No. 4 all-time with former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mark Recchi. ... Blackhawks C Andrew Desjardins was a healthy scratch.