Florida and Chicago had a tough time getting started tonight, as the game was pushed back a half hour to accomodate the late arriving crowd, victims of a snowstorm. Tonight marks the return of Scottie Upshall, Jack Skille and Sean Bergenheim.
With seven minutes gone, Stephen Weiss flashed a little of his skill, splitting two Hawks on a breakaway chance, but was tripped by Brent Seabrook on his way into the zone.
The resultant power play saw Chicago clear the puck out three times before Scottie Upshall was called for high sticking ex-Panther Michal Frolik, putting the teams on a four on four followed by a 52 second power play for the Hawks. Chicago set up nicely, but couldn't get a good chance on Jose Theodore.
John Madden was called for tripping Steve Montador 12 minutes into the game. Chicago kept it in the Panthers zone for most of the penalty. Chicago failed to capitalize on their good fortune, even though the Cats only cleared it out twice. Theodore made two good saves during the two minute episode.
Chicago got on the board when Patrick Kane found Johnathon Toews breaking out behind the Panthers defensemen for his 27th goal of the season. An assist was also awarded to Viktor Stalberg.
Soon after, Chicago got their third power play of the night when Keaton Ellerby boarded Andrew Shaw on the Panthers side of the ice. Chicago would make the Cats pay for it with another score with only 17 seconds left on the clock. Duncan Keith tallied his third of the season with helpers from Marian Hossa and Nick Leddy.
Florida had a great chance with four minutes gone when Kris Versteeg skated through the entire team into the Chicago zone, finding Weiss in front of the net. Weiss couldn't put it home, but the rebound skittered off to Ray Emery's right. When Tomas Fleischmann tried to put it away, he was tripped by Johnathan Toews for an obvious penalty.
On the resultant power play, Jason Garrison provided the only real threat with a slap shot from the blue line which was turned aside by Emery. The Blackhawks kept the Panthers honest, clearing the puck three times on the man advantage.
Seven minutes into the period, the Panther gifted Chicago with another power play when Jack Skille was called for hooking Viktor Stalberg.
Florida was great on their fourth penalty kill of the night, generating a shorthanded chance and clearing out the puck several times.
With seven minutes left in the period, the Blackhawks extended their lead to three goals as Patrick Kane scored his 11th goal of the season on a 2-on-1 breakout.
Dmitry Kulikov was tripped by Johnathan Toews less than a minute into the third for Florida's third power play of the night. It only took Jason Garrison four seconds to score his 13th goal of the season on a slapshot from the left circle. Kulikov and Tomas Kopecky got the assists on the play. Garrison is still leading all NHL defensemen in goals scored.
The rest of the period played out without further incident. Florida loses their eighth straight road matchup, going 0-4-4 since shutting out Boston in early December.
Hits: Panthers, 34-22 (Kulikov led the Panthers with seven, Mike Weaver added five, as did Chicago's Brent Seabrook to lead the Blackhawks).
Blocked Shots: Panthers, 15-8 (Erik Gudbranson led all skaters with four on the night).
Faceoffs: Panthers, 33-25 (Shawn Matthias and Stephen Weiss combined to win 21 of 30 faceoffs. Toews won 12 of 20 for Chicago).
Shots on Goal: Blackhawks, 22-19 (Patrick Kane led everyone with five, Brian Campbell led the Panthers with four).
Score: Blackhawks 3, Panthers 1