Jonathan Toews made a couple of big plays. Scott Darling stayed calm in net. Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp pitched in at key moments.The Blackhawks needed several players to step up after Patrick Kane left with an injury, and they delivered with a scrappy performance Tuesday night.Toews scored in regulation and the shootout, and the Blackhawks stopped a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
”That’s a big two points,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”As a group, we’ve got to make sure everybody plays the right way, plays tighter, and has some responsibility to their games. We’ve got to look to play tight, low-scoring games.”
Kane, tied for the NHL lead with 64 points coming into the day, lost his balance and crashed into the boards after he was cross-checked by defenseman Alex Petrovic with 12:11 left in the first period. Kane stayed down on the ice for a short time and appeared to be favoring his left arm or shoulder as he skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room with an un-announced(as always in the NHL) injury.
”Looks like he might miss some time, but we’ll know the extent of it tomorrow,” Quenneville said. ”We’ll see.”
With Petrovic in the box in the first, Toews got a measure of revenge by following his own shot for his 18th goal. But any prolonged absence for the dynamic Kane would be a big blow for the Hawks, who are fighting for playoff position in the loaded Western Conference.
”You can’t replace Kaner,” said Versteeg, who scored his 13th goal in the second. ”He’s a special talent, somebody who’s really irreplaceable. It’s going to have to be by committee. Guys are going to have to step up and find ways to get the job done.”
Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen scored in the third for Florida, which has lost three in a row and six of eight. Panthers center Derek MacKenzie missed a penalty shot in the second period after Bryan Bickell slid a broken stick into his way in the corner.
”The comeback definitely, the point, was huge when you’re down 2-0 to a team like that,” Trocheck said. ”We didn’t have any doubt we could come back in that game. The third period showed we had a lot of character that we came back and tied that game.”
Florida announced before the game it had traded forward Sean Bergenheim and a seventh-round pick to Minnesota for a third-round selection in the 2016 draft. Bergenheim, who has eight goals and 10 assists in 39 games this season, had requested a trade.
”We live and die by the draft,” general manager Dale Tallon said. ”That’s how we build things. It’s a good pick. Bergy’s a good hard-worker. He’ll help Minnesota, but he wasn’t happy here.”
Toews went first in the shootout and beat Roberto Luongo with a backhand. After Darling stopped Trocheck, Sharp scored into the right side and Nick Bjugstad was unsuccessful on Florida’s final chance to stay in the game.
”It’s unfortunate they got two goals and got back into the game,” said Darling, who made 34 saves in his first start since he was promoted from the minors Sunday night. ”But the guys battled all the way to the end and we won the shootout.”
Luongo made 36 saves for the Panthers, who host the Blackhawks on Thursday night.Versteeg put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0 when he jumped on a loose puck for his fourth goal in his last six games at 14:28. But the Panthers rebounded in the third.Jokinen converted a wrist shot from the right slot at 12:20. Then Florida caught a break with 3 1/2 minutes left in regulation when Trocheck’s centering pass went off the right skate of Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and over the goal line before Darling could get his glove on it.
”We would have loved the two points, but down 2-0 against Chicago in their building and a real hockey team, it was good character from our team to come back and get that point,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said.
NOTES—The Blackhawks went 3-2-3 on their longest homestand of the season. … Sharp got an assist on Versteeg’s goal for his 500th point with the Blackhawks. … The Hawks improved to 8-3 in shootouts, while Florida dropped to 6-9. … Darling, who is from Lemont, improved to 6-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average in his first NHL season. The Blackhawks also announced a two-year contract extension for the goalie after his promotion on Sunday night.