By TIM CRONIN | Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, and the streaking Chicago Blackhawks withstood Florida’s late push to beat the Panthers 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Taylor Raddysh, Philipp Kurashev and Jonathan Toews also scored in the Blackhawks' fourth straight victory after dropping their first two games of the season. Chicago overcame two-goal deficits in its previous three wins, but had to hold on against the Panthers in the final 10 minutes.
The Blackhawks are off to a surprising start after shedding some key players during the offseason.
“Guys see this as an opportunity,” coach Luke Richardson said. “We know what people think should happen, but we’re trying to recognize the noise in the room.”
Florida, which won its first two games, is 2-2-1 since. Eetu Luostarinen and Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Panthers.
Tkachuk’s goal, on a nifty mid-air deflection of Carter Verhaeghe's point shot, closed the gap to 3-2 with 7:13 to play. But Chicago goalie Alex Stalock, who stopped 29 shots, hung on from there.
“There’s going to be a bunch of opportunities to look and say, ‘If that had gone,’ what would have happened,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “You know what? They (the Blackhawks) played well. They defended well. They blocked shots. They got in the lanes. They got above our outs in the neutral zone. They played a hell of a game.”
Kane, held without a goal in the Blackhawks’ first five games, beat Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a wrist shot from the right circle with 22.4 seconds left in the first period to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
“It’s a different team (from last year). We’ve lost some big pieces, but other guys have stepped up. It’s more of a group effort this year than most nights last year,” Kane said. “If we play a little bit better with the lead, we can build off it.”
Raddysh opened the scoring with a slap shot on a power play, beating Bobrovsky over the right shoulder from 25 feet. It was the fifth power-play goal in six games for Chicago, which had only 47 in 82 games last season.
“Getting a great entry and goal, and following up with a solid 20 minutes, that’s huge," Richardson said. “What we want to do.”
Kurashev scored from the slot with 4:02 left after maneuvering by Florida defenseman Gustav Forsling, who was hobbling after blocking a shot seconds earlier. Toews added an empty-net goal with 22.7 seconds to go.
“It gave us a little boost to get through that game,” Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy said. “It’s different playing with the lead the whole game.”
Stalock made big stops on Colin White in the slot and Patric Hornqvist from the doorstep within 45 seconds in the third period in trying to earn his ninth career shutout, but Luostarinen’s rebound goal at 11:32 ended that bid.
“We battled to the end, but we had to because we were so bad in the first two periods,” Tkachuk said.
Bobrovsky faced few difficult shots among the 18 he saved, but was fooled by Kane, who fired to the far side on his goal, and was left defenseless on the goals by Raddysh and Kurashev.
Chicago center Tyler Johnson missed the final few minutes with a possible knee injury after a hard check by Aleksander Barkov, and will be evaluated Wednesday morning.
Florida missed defenseman Aaron Ekblad (groin) for the third straight game, and his absence was felt most on the power play, which he usually quarterbacks. The Panthers had five power plays in the second period, including 1:35 of 5-on-3 advantage, and managed only four shots. Ekblad, who had 57 points in 61 games last season, is on long-term injured reserve.
Florida: Finishes its two-game trip in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Chicago: Hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
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