Blackhawks capitalize on power play in win
Antti Niemi and the Chicago Blackhawks made the best of their opportunities against the Florida Panthers.
The Blackhawks had three power-play goals and the Finnish goalie stopped 23 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Panthers before 12,000 of his countrymen on Saturday.
A day after losing the season opener in a shootout, Chicago started Niemi in goal in place of Cristobal Huet.
"It was a good opportunity to play him in front of his own countrymen," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He got a good challenge and we loved the response."
"You can give him a lot of credit to stand up during two barrages early in the second period and with a couple of cutthroat situations when he makes spectacular saves in the third."
Niemi was playing in just his fourth NHL game.
"Niemi showed us that he is a NHL-level goalie," the Blackhawks' Brian Campbell said.
Campbell, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien scored for Chicago.
Set up by Kane, Campbell opened the scoring 3:05 into the game while Finn Ville Koistinen, the star in Florida's win Friday, was off for interference. Campbell fired low from the point, with Byfuglien providing a screen.
"It was nice to score early," Quenneville said. "We had more energy early in the game now, we got a lot of loose pucks and had four lines capable of scoring and making plays. Some guys were dangerous in both games, but it was more consistent now."
Florida came back with a strong start to the second period, but Kane's opportunism led to the second goal 5:12 into the period. Sharp fired at full speed from the right wing, and Kane was a split-second faster to the rebound than defenseman Keith Ballard and put it into the net for his second goal in as many games.
"You have to be pleased ... for our team, and for myself," Kane said. "I was able to help the team well."
The Blackhawks couldn't convert on a two-man advantage for 55 seconds a few minutes later, but went up 3-0 with less than a minute left in the period when Michael Frolik was off for tripping.
The Panthers threatened while short-handed, but after a second try the puck got loose, Kris Versteeg chased, beat Ballard to it and passed to Sharp, who shot past goalie Tomas Vokoun. He finished with 29 saves.
Florida coach Peter LeBoer wasn't happy with the split.
"A month ago I would have taken it, but after winning the last game you get greedy and want the four points," he said. "We're a skating, forechecking team and need legs. Part of it was that we didn't have the legs and part that Chicago played a great game and made us look bad."