By Chris Hine Chicago Tribune
After playing a whirlwind five games of hockey in seven days, the NHL schedule makers handed the Hawks a deserved break. They had the Sabres, Coyotes and Panthers, three teams who will be competing in a race to the bottom of the standings instead of the playoffs.
The Hawks took care of getting two points against the first two teams and just needed to close this homestand with a win over a team they have already defeated. It wasn’t easy, but the Hawks came from behind to beat the Panthers, 3-2, overcoming a one-goal deficit in the third period after losing defenseman Jan Rutta to an apparent head injury.
Jamie McGinn put the Panthers ahead 3 minutes, 53 seconds into the third period when he settled a hot pass from Vincent Trocheck with his skates and beat Corey Crawford top shelf to give the Panthers the lead. But Jonathan Toews would tie it off a feed from Brandon Saad at 13:58.
Patrick Kane scored the winner on a breakaway 2:24 into the 3-on-3 overtime. The Hawks’ 4-1 victory over the Panthers on November 25 was one of the Hawks’ most complete efforts of the season. It was also a big game for Toews and Saad, who each scored to boost their confidence after stringing together several bagels on the score sheet.
In the first period, the Hawks picked up where they left off, controlling most of the action 5-on-5 thanks in part to the top line of Toews, Saad and Alex DeBrincat. The trio created some chances in the first few shifts of the night, but they would help the Hawks strike first later in the period.
After a prolonged shift in which the line kept the Panthers pinned in their own end, DeBrincat found a streaking Saad in the slot for a goal 16 minutes, 49 seconds into the period. DeBrincat fired a perfect pass to Saad from behind the net and Saad didn’t get all of his one-time attempt but got enough to get it past Reimer. The second line also had its moments, with Nick Schmaltz looking more aggressive than usual in seeking scoring opportunities instead of trying to pass and create for others. Schmaltz had two scoring chances that just went wide.
The Hawks also got a productive power play starting at 9:43 despite not scoring a goal. The top power-play unit of Toews, Kane, Artem Anisimov, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith kept possession in the Panthers zone for 1 minute, 52 seconds of the man advantage. Though it didn’t score, the power play did something coach Joel Quenneville was hoping it could do – maintain momentum.
“The last few games I think we slowed down our team in our power plays,” Quenneville said. “Let’s get the momentum and keep it and add to it.”
The Panthers were all over the Hawks in the second period and outshot them 17-4, and to add injury to insult, the Hawks lost defenseman Jan Rutta to an apparent head injury.
Rutta was on the receiving end of a crushing hit from Panthers winger Connor Brickley. Brickley’s shoulder connected with Rutta’s head and Rutta slammed into the boards at 6:48. Rutta had difficulty getting up on his power and when he did, he had trouble keeping his balance as the Hawks’ medical training staff arrived to help him. He went to the locker room for further evaluation.
The Panthers tied the game not long after a miscue from Rutta’s defensive partner Gustav Forsling. Alexander Barkov floated the puck over Forsling’s head and hit center Nick Bjugstad, who had gotten behind Forsling, in stride. Bjugstad had an easy breakaway on Crawford and didn’t miss at 11:12.
Carolina 3 Las Vegas 2 (SO)
Chicago 3 Florida 2 (OT)
Tampa Bay 3 St. Louis 0
Minnesota 2 Calgary 1 (SO)
Buffalo 3 Ottawa 2
New Jersey 5 Los Angeles 1
Philadelphia 4 Toronto 2
Washington 5 Colorado 2
Edmonton 7 Columbus 2
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