SUNRISE — Fans of the Florida Panthers are used to seeing big hits from defenseman Radko Gudas. He has led the NHL in hits the past two seasons, after all.
Thursday night was one of Gudas’ biggest hits — a hip check on Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach which got the crowd at FLA Live Arena on its feet.
The rolling hit from Gudas, which sent Dach flying into the air, seemed to breathe some new life into the Panthers.
Florida was leading 1-0 off a Sasha Barkov goal at the time and the Blackhawks were doing a good job of bottling up the Panthers.
Five minutes later, Ryan Lomberg showed some real skill on a breakaway goal to give Florida a 2-0 lead and the Panthers were well on their way to a 4-0 win.
Sergei Bobrovsky had a big night for the Panthers as he improved his March record to 7-0 by making 37 saves for his third shutout this season.
Bobrovsky is now two wins shy of tying Robert Luongo’s franchise record for consecutive wins.
But back to Gudas.
“We love Gudie,” Sasha Barkov said when asked about the hit. “We love to have him on our side. When you play against guys like him, you think, ‘OK, he’s on the ice.’ You have to be aware of him. Thankfully we have him on our side. He gets us going with his hits and with his defensive play.’’
Added Andrew Brunette: “Radko is such a loved guy on our team. When he does stuff like that, the bench gets really excited. That was a typical, good, clean body check from Guds. Kind of a highlight reel thing and the boys love it. It came at the right time.”
BARKOV KICKIN’ IT
Barkov scored three goals on Thursday night — but only two counted.
His first came 41 seconds into the game when he jumped on a rebound from a Gus Forsling shot and used his skate to get the puck past goalie Collin Delia.
The play was reviewed and it was ruled that Barkov kicked it in 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.
Did he kick it?
”It was kind of a kicking motion, I was trying to kick it to myself,” Barkov said. “I don’t know, I didn’t see the replay at all. But it was pretty obvious I kicked it. I’m not worried about it.’’
Was it obvious?
”I mean, I don’t … you see all kinds of different things,” Brunette said. “I don’t know. When you see them … I see both sides of it, probably a 50-50 thing. I didn’t see his skate come off the ice but it probably doesn’t matter. I don’t know. There was some kind of … I don’t know.”
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS
- When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
- Where: Prudential Center, Newark
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/NHL Network
- Radio: WQAM 560/SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- Season series — Tied 1-1: @New Jersey 7, Florida 3 (Nov. 9); @Florida 4, New Jersey 1(Nov. 18)
- All-time regular season series: Devils lead 56-33-6, 7 ties