An offensive explosion and an unusually effective penalty kill were just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Blackhawks.
Unfortunately for the defending Stanley Cup champions, a doctor needed to be ordered to tend to starting goaltender Corey Crawford, who departed during the first period of the Hawks’ 6-2 victory over the Panthers on Sunday night with an apparent groin injury.
While the thumping over the Panthers snapped the Hawks’ season-high, three-game losing skid, the potential long-term loss of Crawford could leave them with rookie Antti Raanta as their starter and likely another untested player—possibly Kent Simpson from their AHL affiliate in Rockford—as the backup.
As for the game itself, the Hawks got a goal and two assists from Patrick Sharp, a score and a helper each from Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook and goals from Michal Handzus and Brandon Saad to dispatch the Panthers at the United Center. Patrick Kane chipped in with three assists and Jonathan Toews had two as the Hawks’ offense kicked into gear, led by three tallies on the power play.
Raanta made 29 saves to pick up the win in relief of Crawford, yielding goals to Dylan Olsen and Marcel Goc as the Hawks improved to 21-6-5 to now lead the NHL in points with 47.
The beleaguered Hawks penalty kill, which entered the game ranked 29th in the league with a 71.8 percent success rate, came up big with a effort as it halted all five Panthers opportunities with a man advantage.
Scratches for the Hawks were Bryan Bickell (left knee), Michael Kostka (healthy) and Sheldon Brookbank (healthy). Sitting for the Panthers were Mike Mottau, Brad Boyes and Scott Gomez.