Sam Bennett scored at 4:08 of overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Bennett beat Kevin Lankinen with a rising shot over the glove from the slot for his ninth goal after the Blackhawks had dominated in overtime and tested 20-year-old Florida goaltender Spencer Knight, who played in just this third NHL game.
Since coming in a deal from Calgary at the trade deadline, Bennett has five goals and six assists in eight games with Florida. On Thursday, he fired eight shots as he played on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett.
“Benny had a great shot in overtime,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “In a short amount of time, he's had a big impact on our team."
The win kept Florida two points behind first-place Carolina and one ahead of third-place Tampa Bay in the tight Central Division.
And Bennett is more than happy to skate for a contender after leaving the Flames.
“I'm having a blast out there,” he said. “I'm just really enjoying every minute of it.”
Alex DeBrincat scored on a one-timer with 18 seconds left in regulation for his 24th goal, tying the game at 3-all and forcing overtime. He beat Knight from the left circle after taking Patrick Kane’s cross-ice feed and with Lankinen on the bench for an extra attacker.
Alex Wennberg and Brandon Mountour each had a goal and assist for the Panthers, who improved to 7-2-1 in their last 10. Anthony Duclair also scored.
Knight made 24 saves in his second start and third appearance with Florida since signing a three-year, entry-level contract on March 31. Knight, who won in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky on Tuesday, improved to 3-0-0 in the NHL after starring for two seasons at Boston College.
Among Knight's saves in overtime was an in-close stop of Kane as the Blackhawks pressed.
“They had some big shifts in our end and he did what he had to do," Quenneville said. “The kid's got some composure. You like what you see.”
Adam Gaudette and Vinnie Hinostroza also scored for Chicago, which is six points behind fourth-place Nashville in the race for the division's final playoff spot. The Blackhawks have six games remaining.
Lankinen stopped 35 shots.
“It's nice that we didn't quit there and found a way to come back at the end of the game,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think we had more than enough to win the game, so that leaves a sour taste not to get the two points.”
Gaudette scored his first goal with the Blackhawks since being acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline, opening the scoring on a backhander from a scrum in front at 13:47 of the first period. .
Wennberg’s power-play deflection at 7:47 of the second tied it 1. Alone in front, he ticked in MacKenzie Weegar’s shot from the top of the slot.
Hinostroza put Chicago back ahead 2-1 at 10:09 with a nifty, on-the-fly tip-in of Brandon Hagel’s pinpoint feed to the right edge of the crease.
Duclair whipped in a rebound of Montour’s soft shot three minutes later, tying it at 2-all.
Knight slid across the crease to make a right pad save and rob DeBrincat on a point-blank tip-in attempt late in the second.
Montour scored at 9:09 of the third to put Florida ahead 3-2 Montour trailed in on the play, took a feed from Wennberg and beat Lankinen with a shot from the slot as Aleksi Heponiemi distracted at the edge of the crease.
IT'S ALL THE SAME TO HIM
So far, Knight seems unfazed by the jump from NCAA to NHL play in under a month.
“I don't really know how to describe it," Knight said. "It's just hockey. It's definitely faster for sure, but for me it's just finding an adjustment.”
FANS TO RETURN TO UNITED CENTER
The Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls announced Thursday they have permission from the city and state to host fans at 25% capacity starting with Bulls vs. Boston Celtics on May 7 and Blackhawks vs. Dallas Stars on May 9.
Florida: Coach Joel Quenneville said RW Patric Hornqvist, who sat out his third game with an upper-body injury, is progressing. … LW Mason Marchment (upper-body) missed his fifth game and C Carter Verhaeghe (upper-body) missed his 10th.
Chicago: D Adam Boqvist is out for the season with a broken right wrist, suffered on Tuesday when he was hit by Tampa Bay D Erik Cernak. Rookie D Nicolas Beaudin took the roster spot on Thursday. … D Calvin de Haan (hip) missed his third game. … Gaudette, acquired at the trade deadline from Vancouver, played his second game with the Blackhawks, while C Philipp Kurashev was a healthy scratch.
The teams meet again in Chicago on Saturday night.
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