Cats get season series clincher against Chicago
Sam Bennett scored with 52 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the penultimate road game of the 2020-21 season for the playoff-bound Cats.
Bennett took a bounce pass off the boards from MacKenize Weegar at his own blue line and skated all the way down the ice unimpeded before slinging a rising wrist shot over Kevin Lankinen’s glove from the top portion of the left circle.
SAM BENNETT (@SBennett93) OVERTIME WINNER!
— NHL (@NHL) April 30, 2021
Rookie Spencer Knight made 24 saves, including a key stop on a driving Brandon Hagel, early in the extra session to raise his record to a perfect 3-0.
The Blackhawks opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period when Dominik Kubalik beat Radko Gudas to a puck below the goal line and found Dylan Strome open in the slot. Strome backhanded the puck in front and Adam Gaudette was able to collect and work around his way through Keith Yandle, who failed to take the body, and deposit it behind Knight. Shoddy bit of defending all around by the Cats on this one.
Florida evened the game 7:47 into the second period with a power-play goal. After playing catch with Jonathan Huberdeau, Weegar let go of a drive from center point that was deflected in by Alex Wennberg.
Former Panther Vinnie Hinostroza got away from Aleksander Barkov and capped a rush that turned into a 2-on-1 by finishing off Hagel’s pretty saucer pass 2:22 later. Knight got a piece of the shot with his glove, but not enough to keep it out of the net. Kirby Dach picked up the secondary assist on Hinostroza’s third goal for Chicago since the April 2 trade.
The Cats countered three minutes after Hinostroza’s goal with Barkov starting a 3-on-2 break that saw Grigori Denisenko pass the puck from the boards into the right circle for Brandon Montour. who whacked it on goal. Lankinen made the save, but the rebound came right to Anthony Duclair and he put it home to equalize.
The Panthers forged ahead at 9:09 of the third when Montour jumped into the fray late to take a pass from Wennberg and he fired the puck through Lankinen for his seventh of the season. Markus Nutivaara collected the second helper on the go-ahead goal that failed to turn into the winner.
With Lankinen off for an extra attacker, Chicago earned a point by keeping the puck alive in the Florida zone and after rookie defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk handed off to Patrick Kane, he sent a crossing pass over to Alex DeBrincat, who was left all alone by Gudas, and he drilled a short one-timer by Knight to tie the affair with 18 seconds to go.
Florida shrugged off the late goal with Knight stopping three shots in overtime and Bennett eventually getting the goal that gave the Cats the bonus point. The Panthers remain in second place in the Central Division, two points behind Carolina and one point ahead of Tampa Bay, after last night’s results. Florida out-shot the home team by a 39-27 margin, out-hit them 40-36, and killed off both of Chicago power plays to post their 16th road win, and first at United Center, of the season.
Bows & Arrows
- Sam Bennett has posted 11 points (5G/6A) in 8 games since coming to the Panthers from Calgary on deadline day. In addition to his game-winning goal, Bennett registered a game-high 8 shots and led his new team with 6 hits.
- Grigori Denisenko’s assist on Anthony Duclair’s goal was his first point in the NHL and came in his fourth career game.
- Adam Gaudette scored his first goal since being traded to the Blackhawks by the Vancouver Canucks on April 12.
- A rather quiet night for captain Aleksander Barkov. Yes, Barkov sparked the 3-on-2 that led to Duclair’s tally, but he finished with just one shot on goal, and lost 11 of 17 draws, mostly to youngster Kirby Dach.
- Vinnie Hinostroza now has 10 points in 11 games since departing Sunrise for the Blackhawks. One wonders if Hinostroza got a deep enough look here (9 games) or if he is just a great fit on his hometown team right now, as that’s quite a turnaround.
- More on Chicago’s collection of wayward Panthers: Brett Connolly had one shot, one hit and posted a -1 rating, Riley Stillman had one shot, one hit and three blocks and finished even.
- For more on the next to last tilt between the Cats and Blackhawks, check out Second City Hockey.