Ragtag Blackhawks survive into overtime before succumbing to Panthers


SUNRISE, Fla. — Four of the Blackhawks’ six defensemen dressed Friday against the Panthers were Jarred Tinordi, Nikita Zaitsev, Ian Mitchell and Filip Roos.

On a playoff contender, it’s possible none of them would crack the roster. On the Hawks, however, they spent the night juggling second- and third-pairing workloads, combining for more than 63 minutes of ice time.

So it was not surprising that the Hawks lost to the Panthers. It was far more surprising, actually, that the Hawks made it to overtime before losing — 4-3 on an amazing behind-the-back goal by Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour — and led 2-0 at the second intermission.

Hawks coach Luke Richardson deserves immense credit for making this ragtag team even competitive at this point.

“[We] never gave up,” Richardson said. “That has been our m.o. all year, and it’s really good to see the guys not get discouraged by letting a team climb back into a game and take the lead. We stayed composed and calm and did the job to get it to overtime. Unfortunately, they got the bounce.”

Richardson’s game plan against the aggressive Panthers was to try to win battles and counterattack, and for a while, it worked well.

Caleb Jones and Boris Katchouk each scored their third goals of the season on odd-man rushes in the first period — another indication of how reliant this team has become on secondary (and tertiary) contributors in order to scrape together offense — and the Hawks finished the frame tied 8-8 in scoring chances.

But the problem with tactical game plans is that other teams can adjust and the Hawks simply don’t have the talent to do the same on the fly. There’s only so much Richardson can do while wearing street shoes behind the bench.

Anders Bjork suffering a right leg or ankle injury and knocking the Hawks down to 11 available forwards — another problem on top of their defensive personnel woes — didn’t help, either.

“We started to not [exactly] run out of gas a little bit, but [we couldn’t keep up] the pace we were playing at,” Richardson said. “[The Panthers] played better, give them credit. They’re in a desperate situation and they countered and reacted.

“For the most part in the second period, we kept them to the outside and really protected the middle well. But [it took] just a little too much time, and then that exhausts you. In the third period, we were feeling that.”

The Panthers generated 30 scoring chances to the Hawks’ 14 after the first intermission and eventually scored three goals in less than five minutes to take the lead. Hawks starter Petr Mrazek — backed up by an emergency goalie (31-year-old Florida resident Zach Andrews) with Alex Stalock out sick — stopped the first 32 shots on goal he faced but could only hold the fort for so long.

Hawks rookie Cole Guttman — a major bright spot over the past month — whacked a loose puck over the line with 44 seconds left to force overtime, but Jason Dickinson and Andreas Athanasiou were unable to bury grade-‘A’ opportunities in the extra session before Montour’s winner.

But it can’t be emphasized enough that even making it to overtime was an impressive achievement.

“The back end has been solid,” Tinordi said. “There’s some things we need to clean up and maybe a little bit of chemistry stuff going on, but for the most part, we were moving pucks the way we need to and giving ourselves a chance.

“[We need] just more time together, really. More practice time together; more game time together.”


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