SUNRISE, Fla. — Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson thought he played poorly a night earlier and things looked even worse early Saturday.
He rebounded to deliver a winning finish.
Gustafsson scored 2:32 into overtime as the Chicago rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Gustafsson wristed in his third goal of the season to beat Florida goalie James Reimer, snapping Chicago’s two-game overall losing streak and eight-game road skid.
Admittedly, Gustafsson played poorly in Tampa in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 loss to the Lightning, but the Swedish blueliner said he wanted to do anything to help Chicago gain a win on the three-game road swing through Washington and Florida.
“It was a tough first period for me. I think I was minus-3 after 10 minutes or whatever. It was real hard for me, but you have to go back out there and get back on your feet,” Gustafsson said.
The Blackhawks had a pair of two-goal deficits against Florida, but battled back and Alex DeBrincat tied it with under 2 seconds play in regulation.
“I thought the third period was as desperate as I have seen us. Clearly, we have to find a way to start that way and play every shift like it’s life or death. Good to see the response in the third,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said.
Trailing 4-2 to start the third, Chicago recorded the first 11 shots of the period, and Alexandre Fortin scored his third goal at 9:52 short-handed after a steal before DeBrincat’s 10th goal tied it after Chicago pulled the goalie for an extra attacker.
“It’s tough to score late. They’re bearing down and we’re trying to put pucks to the net. I got pretty lucky there. It snuck through the five-hole,” DeBrincat said.
David Kampf and Patrick Kane also tallied for the Blackhawks. Gustav Forsling had two assists and Kampf added an assist for a three-point night.
Goalie Cam Ward made his first start since Nov. 12 and stopped 34 shots.
Mike Hoffman, Jared McCann, Aaron Ekblad and Frank Vatrano scored goals for the Panthers. Jonathan Huberdeau recorded a pair of assists.
Reimer made 36 saves for the Panthers, who lost their third straight.
Hoffman, who turned 29 on Saturday, put Florida up 1-0 at 5:28 of the first period when he one-timed his 11th goal on the power play. McCann added on when he deked left and roofed a backhander for his third goal at 13:40.
“When you don’t play a full 60 minutes in this league, every team has good offensive players and they’ll make you pay for it. That’s kind of what happened here tonight,” Hoffman said.
The Blackhawks opened the second fast and tied it inside six minutes.
Kampf cut it to 2-1 just 49 seconds into the period when he skated past Ekblad on the right side and swept in his third goal past Reimer.
Kane tied it with a deflection at 5:34 on a pass from Brandon Saad for his 13th goal, but Ekblad one-timed a pass from Hoffman for his fourth goal at 8:08.
Huberdeau flipped a pass in front of Ward that Vatrano chipped in for his seventh goal at 11:30 for a 4-2 lead.
“We gave them a little life, they took the game over. We had lots of opportunities at 4-2 to make it 5-2 and couldn’t get that fifth one,” said Florida coach Bob Boughner.
“There’s some good things, but obviously you want to forget the last 10 minutes of the third period.”