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Game 2 Breakdown: Florida Panthers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4 (OT)

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Chicago Panthers Blackhawks Florida

The Florida Panthers got a big lift from a couple of newcomers while welcoming back an old friend in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at BB&T Center on Tuesday night.

Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist both scored twice while Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in his 2021 debut to lead the Panthers to the early-season sweep of the still-winless Blackhawks.

Frank Vatrano ended up being the hero, however, as he pounded a shot off a Sasha Barkov offering from the right side with 2:10 left in OT to win it for the Panthers — who start off this odd season 2-0.

”It was obviously a great feeling, a great play all around from Barkov and (MacKenzie) Weegar,” Vatrano said.

“It was a good team effort. We made some mistakes and learned from that and just kept going. I think we’re a relentless team and that’s a good identity to have.”

Chicago opened its season with two consecutive losses before coming to Sunrise and losing two more as the Panthers began their own 2021 campaign.

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Tuesday, the Blackhawks trailed 3-1 after Verhaeghe and Hornqvist scored yet rallied to take a 4-3 lead early in the third.

Unbelievably, it was the first time this entire season that Chicago held a lead of any kind — and it took them 226:06 to do it.

The lead, unfortunately for the rebuilding Blackhawks, was short lived.

Not long after Philipp Kurashev scored on Bobrovsky, the Panthers got a power play.

Keith Yandle tied the score with a shot from inside the blue line with Hornqvist deflecting it past Chicago’s rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen to tie the score at 4.

Lankinen, Chicago’s No. 3 goalie, made 23 saves in his NHL debut. 

Bob gives up four

Bobrovsky was not at his best Tuesday night, but for a guy who did not even get a full week of practice before his first game, it definitely could have been worse.

“In the circumstances I was in, I felt pretty good,” Bobrovsky said afterward. “There were a couple of mistakes there by me that I need to clean up, but overall, I felt good. My legs were good, my movement was good.

“So, again, in the circumstances, I thought it was a pretty good game. The most important thing to me is a win. The boys stepped up.”

Bobrovsky did not join the Panthers for his first practice until last Wednesday and with the team taking a day off and having only a morning skate in there Sunday, he certainly did not get as much work as he is used to.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Bobrovsky was “OK” and that it is apparent he needs some more time on the ice.

”He needs to play,” Quenneville said. “He missed that part of camp so we expect him to improve off of today’s game.

“I know in some of the goals, you could say ‘we’re looking for a save there.’ At the same time, the game is 4-3 and I liked the way he battled and stayed with it. That’s a good sign he can recapture what it is like to be solid from start to finish.”

First period highlights

The Panthers looked to take complete control of this one early as Verhaeghe got things going when he got behind Ian Mitchell and Calvin de Haan, drove in and put in a backhanded shot past Kevin Lankinen at 13:25.

Less than three minutes later, Hornqvist made it 2-0 on Florida’s first power play attempt.

One reason the Panthers were excited to get Hornqvist was because he wasn’t afraid to camp out in front of the net — especially on power play tries — and he did just that here, putting a body on Lankinen and sweeping the puck through from the front porch.

”He simply has that knack of playing goal,” Quenneville said of Hornqvist. “He’s a distraction for goalies, sometimes they have to play deep in their net. There are a lot of loose pucks around.”

Chicago, winless in its first three, simply would not go away.

Not long after Hornqvist’s goal, Sasha Barkov was flagged for interference and the Blackhawks took the advantage.

After not registering any shots through the power play, Chicago got on the attack late and made it a one-goal game when Kubalik got his first by firing a shot of Florida defenseman Riley Stillman which redirected the puck past Bobrovsky.

In the period, Bobrovsky made eight saves and Lankinen made eight.

Second period highlights

Once again, the Panthers took a two-goal lead but the Blackhawks just kept coming after them.

Although the Panthers got a second power play chance 29 seconds into the period, they failed to cash in.

They did, however, keep the pressure on Chicago with Anthony Duclair driving in on Lankinen at 2:47. The goalie made the initial save, but Verhaeghe cleaned up the rebound and made it 3-1.

A few minutes later, Kubalik scored again — this time, Stillman was in the penalty box and not in front of the net — off a rifle shot from the top of the right circle to make it 3-2.

Patrick Kane looked to tie it with 5:32 left in the period when he was stoned by Bobrovsky on a penalty shot.

Kane got his revenge in the waning moments of the period, however, driving in on Bobrovsky and going top shelf with 49.9 seconds remaining.

In the second, Chicago outshot the Panthers 15-9.

Third period highlights

The Blackhawks came out firing in the third as they battled for their first win of the season.

Finally, Chicago took a lead in a game this season as Kurashev’s wrister beat Bobrovsky for a 4-3 advantage 6:06 into the period.

The Panthers came right back with their second power play goal of the night.

Hornqvist, right in front of Lankinen, appeared to deflect the long shot from Yandle to make it a 4-4 game at 7:07.

Although Yandle was officially given credit for the goal by the NHL, Hornqvist was announced inside the arena as the goal scorer — and 20 minutes after the game ended, the league changed it to Hornqvist.

Yandle gets the primary assist, though.

The two teams traded a couple of chances — although neither did much — and the game went to overtime.

OT highlights

Vatrano scored. That was about it.

Actually, as overtimes usually go, this was an up-and-back affair with Florida ending it as Weegar, Barkov and Vatrano charged up the ice.

Barkov laid the puck up on a tee for Vatrano who drove it down the fairway.

”I should have given (Barkov) a little kiss on the cheek for that pass he gave me,” Vatrano said.

Up next for the Panthers

Thursday: At Carolina, 7 p.m.; Saturday: At Carolina, 1 p.m.

Maybe.

Carolina Hurricanes game postponed due to COVID-19. Are Panthers next?

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Sean Nelson

We need to clean things up, or we will have a repeat of last season. Lots of goals for, lots of goals against. In a lighter note, how sweet those goals must feel for Yands right now, after his whole ordeal.

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