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South Side Cats: Florida Panthers 4, Chicago Blackhawks 0

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Florida Panthers center Sasha Barkov celebrates his first-period goal with his teammates as Florida won its fifth consecutive home game Thursday — this one over the Chicago Blackhawks. — AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

SUNRISE — On the night Jonathan Toews played in his 1,000th NHL game and Henrik Borgstrom made his return to FLA Live Arena, Sergei Bobrovsky and his Florida Panthers stole the spotlight.

While Bobrovsky was stopping shot after shot, Sasha Barkov scored twice as the Panthers rolled to their fifth consecutive home win, this one 4-0 over the Blackhawks.

The Panthers won their 28th game at home, setting a franchise record for a single season.

Chicago, long out of the postseason race, gave the Panthers a fight and rarely allowed Florida to open things up the way it likes to.

But goalie Collin Delia, making just his fourth appearance at the NHL level this season, was simply wore down by the constant Florida pressure.

On the other side of the ice, Bobrovsky was fantastic in net as he bounced back from a rough outing Tuesday night by pitching his third shutout of the season.

Bobrovsky has seemed out of sync since getting hit by an errant puck while on the bench a few weeks ago in Los Angeles but was sharp on Thursday in making 37 saves.

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The Panthers led 1-0 late in the first when Barkov absoutely punished Delia by charging in and going front-to-backhand for his 30th of the season.

The Panthers tacked onto their lead in the second.

Ryan Lomberg, promoted to the second line during a strong game Tuesday, looked the part as he got loose and sniped a shot on a breakaway at 7:23 of the second.

Gus Forsling, who was good throughout, flew a shot through traffic at 11:46 to make it 3-0.

That goal was challenged by the Blackhawks for goalie interference as it appeared Sam Bennett made contact with Dalia; Caleb Jones and Bennett did tangle but the NHL ruled there was not interference.

Florida tagged on another goal in the third. With a 5-on-3 power play running for 1:50, Barkov got his second (official) goal of the night as he one-timed a Jonathan Huberdeau offering at 13:47.

The assist put Huberdeau at 94 points this season which gives him sole possession of most points during a season in franchise history. He is two back of tying Barkov’s mark of 96 set in 2018.

Barkov could have had a hat trick Thursday night but a video replay in the game’s first minute took one away as it appeared Barkov got the game’s first goal just 41 seconds in after pouncing on a fat Forsling rebound.

But, Barkov pushed the puck ahead with his skate — apparently trying to get it to his stick.

Instead, it went into the net.

The play was reviewed and it was determined Barkov kicked the puck into the net per Rule 49.2 which states a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot.

Whether Barkov actually used a “distinct kicking motion” is up for debate, but as many expected, the game was not decided by a single goal.

Far from it.

GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1. Sasha Barkov, Florida

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida

3. Gus Forsling, Florida

UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS 

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