Blackhawks roll past Panthers despite losing goalie to injury
After their No. 1 goalie was knocked out early in the game, the Chicago Blackhawks dialed up their NHL-leading offense.
Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists, and Chicago scored a season-high three times on the power play in a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.
Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Brandon Saad each had goal and an assist, and Michal Handzus and Andrew Shaw also scored. Patrick Kane had three assists for Chicago, which ended a three-game losing streak — its longest regular-season skid since February 2012.
Corey Crawford was forced out with 6:15 left in the first period after sustaining a lower-body injury. Rookie Antti Raanta, recalled after veteran backup Nikolai Khabublin was injured on Nov. 16, stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win in relief of Crawford, who made four saves.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville didn’t offer a diagnosis of the injury to Crawford, who played every minute of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup playoff run last season.
”I don’t think it’s too serious, but when it’s a goalie, it’s a little more serious than with other players, because of how important he is to our team,” Quenneville said. ”You’re concerned, but I think we’ll have a better assessment (Monday).”
Crawford left with the Blackhawks ahead 2-0, moments after he went down to make a right pad save on Marcel Goc, who later scored one of Florida’s goals. Former Blackhawks player Dylan Olsen had the Panthers’ other goal.
Crawford was unable to get back up on his skates and had to be helped from the ice by teammates and a trainer.
Raanta was able to finish the game despite being elbowed in the head by Florida’s Jimmy Hayes in a collision midway through the third period.
”Usually if the goalie is down it’s something really bad,” Raanta said. ”But I just tried to get my mind in the game, get focused, and do the right things.
”That’s the job I came here to do. If the coaches say I’m going to the net, I am, and I’ll be as good as possible.”
While Raanta held off the Panthers, the Blackhawks’ snipers and specialty teams made the difference. The Blackhawks went 3-for-4 on the power play and stopped all five Florida advantages.
”It shows how important special teams can be,” Sharp said. ”Not only the power-play scoring, but our penalty kill had some big kills there.
”It was good to break the losing streak, nice to rebound with a win. We’re a little concerned to see how Corey’s going to react to whatever happened early in the game. We’ll take the two points and evaluate Crow.”
Florida’s Scott Clemmensen made 26 saves in his third start and fifth appearance this season.
Olsen, a defenseman who was traded from Chicago to Florida on Nov. 14, connected in his first game against his former team.
Although Florida managed to trim a 3-0 Chicago lead to 3-2 in the second period, it wasn’t nearly enough.
”We came charging back in the second and third period,” Florida coach Peter Horachek said. ”We had 15-17 shots in the third period and 10 scoring chances, but they’re not going in.
”On (Chicago’s) power play, it’s bing-bing and a shot and it goes in the first time, first shot. But that’s what good teams do, and obviously they’re a good team. World-class players sharpshooting the puck.”
Sharp and Seabrook scored power-play goals in the first period to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
Sharp opened the scoring 1:10 in. His shot from the top of the slot sailed past Clemmensen. Seabrook made it 2-0 when he pinched to the right circle, took a cross-ice pass from Saad, and fired in a low shot.
Raanta made a couple of close-in saves late in the first to preserve the lead.
Hossa increased Chicago’s advantage to 3-0 just 37 seconds into the second, popping in a rebound of Sharp’s shot.
Olsen cut it to 3-1 at 4:05 when he closed in from the left point and beat Raanta with a high screened shot.
Goc trimmed it to 3-2 with an unassisted goal after Raanta failed to clear the puck off the boards.
Handzus’ goal with 2:34 left in the second made it 4-2.
Shaw’s power-play goal at 2:44 of the third, extended Chicago’s lead to three goals.
Hayes knocked off Raanta’s mask at 8:39 of the third when he drove hard to the net.
Saad completed the scoring on a breakaway with 56 seconds left.
NOTES: Shaw returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. . . . Chicago D Michael Kostka was activated from the injured list and recalled from Rockford (AHL) but didn’t play.