The Chicago Blackhawks had some stretches of strong play Thursday night. They also made some mistakes against Florida.
When they stumbled, Kevin Lankinen was there.
Lankinen made 41 saves in his second career shutout, leading the Blackhawks to a 3-0 win against the short-handed Panthers.
“Maybe wasn’t our best game of the season, but we hang in there, power play was good, the penalty kill was even better, and found a way to get a win against a good team,” Lankinen said. “I think that was huge.”
Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel each had a goal and an assist as Chicago earned its second straight victory over Florida after dropping their first four meetings this season. Pius Suter also scored.
Led by Lankinen, who became the first rookie goaltender in franchise history with at least 40 saves in a shutout, the Blackhawks killed off each of Florida's six power plays. He denied Jonathan Huberdeau on a rare 3-on-0 break with about three minutes left in the second period.
“Maybe not the way we’re supposed to defend, but that happens,” Lankinen said. “That was again one of those moments that the game can turn over, so I felt like we needed a big save there and I was able to make that.”
Huberdeau lamented his role in the missed opportunity.
“I haven't been playing well the past few games,” he said. “I've got to help the team a little bit more. That should be easy, should be some cookie goal.”
Lankinen also played a key in role in Chicago's 3-2 victory over Florida on Tuesday night, finishing with 33 stops.
“Hopefully this is a real confidence builder,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “This is an excellent team we played here, and two really good performances.”
The Panthers played without captain Aleksander Barkov for the second consecutive game, and fellow forward Patric Hornqvist departed in the third period after he was leveled by a huge hit from Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Barkov is dealing with a lower-body injury, but coach Joel Quenneville said he was feeling much better and could return this weekend in Dallas. Quenneville said the team should know more about Hornqvist's status on Friday.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 18 saves for Florida, which has lost a season-high three in a row.
“We definitely had some chances to get on the board, which probably could have really helped us get back in the game,” Quenneville said. “Didn't materialize, and we probably got a little bit too much on the outside as the game went on.”
Chicago went ahead to stay on Kane's power-play goal 1:05 into the second period. With Bobrovsky down on the ice after a scramble in front, Kane skated in and flipped the puck into the net for his 13th of the season.
Suter then made it 2-0 with his 10th at 3:34. Kane set up Alex DeBrincat for a good look from the left circle that was denied by Bobrovsky. The rebound went right to a streaking Suter, who knocked it into the open net.
With the Panthers pushing hard in the third, Hagel helped close it out with a long empty-netter with 1:24 left.
Panthers: Visit the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Blackhawks: Host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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