The Panthers beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime Thursday. | AP Photos
The two teams combined to blow three leads in regulation, but Florida’s Sam Bennett dealt the Hawks a loss late in overtime.
In a typical season against a typical opponent, the Blackhawks having three players who spent much of the year on the Panthers would’ve provided a significant advantage in the two teams’ matchup Thursday.
But this is 2021. The Hawks and Panthers had already met six times. And the Panthers are coached by Joel Quenneville, with whom familiarity is a given both ways.
So it actually mattered little that ex-Panthers Vinnie Hinostroza, Brett Connolly and Riley Stillman all played Thursday for the Hawks, who lost 4-3 in overtime.
“There’s always little details that you find out [from them],” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “But when you play a team six times, there’s not much left to find out. It’s probably more effective when you get someone from the other conference, and you’ve only seen them one time, and that helps to make the video be a little clearer as far as what you’re seeing.”
Alex DeBrincat dramatically tied the game with 17.6 seconds left, finding open space on the back door and roofing a Patrick Kane pass to force an unexpected overtime. But after numerous Hawks chances to win barely missed, Sam Bennett beat Kevin Lankinen upstairs with 51.1 seconds left in overtime.
Hinostroza did enjoy some personal revenge against the team that cast him aside, scoring off a pass from so-called “Bash Bros” partner Brandon Hagel to put the Hawks temporarily ahead 2-1. Adam Gaudette had earlier scored his first goal as a Hawk.
But ex-Hawks forward Anthony Duclair, despite being much further removed from his Chicago tenure, tied the game later in the second period.
Brandon Montour’s strike with 10:51 left then seemed to have given the Panthers a regulation win before DeBrincat’s late heroics.
The Panthers dominated the Hawks, who have lost four of their last five games with just six remaining in the season, for much of the second and third periods. Shots on goal and scoring chances both heavily favored the visitors — 29-15 and 22-13, respectively — over the final 40 minutes of regulation.
Hardman won’t forget debut
Mike Hardman’s NHL debut Tuesday was even more special than expected because his mom, dad and two grandparents were in attendance in a United Center suite.
“I didn’t really know if they were going to be able to come because of all the COVID stuff, but they were able to make it out,” Hardman said Wednesday. “All four of them have been there every step of the way for me, so it was really important for them to be able to see my first game. It was a night I’ll never forget.”
Hardman impressed in limited playing time, which Colliton later regretted wasn’t higher, and stayed in the lineup for his second game Thursday.
“He was physical, he made some plays, he skated well,” Colliton said. “Very good debut for him, so that was positive.”
No AHL playoffs
The AHL announced Thursday it won’t hold league playoffs this season, which means the Rockford IceHogs’ season will end May 15.
With a 9-15-1 record, the Hawks affiliate wasn’t exactly deserving of a playoff berth anyway. This year has been more about prospect development than winning. Dylan McLaughlin and Cody Franson, two players on AHL-only contracts, share the team scoring lead with 17 points each; Evan Barratt is the top-scoring Hawks prospect with 12 points.