Blackhawks try to keep playoff pursuit alive vs. Panthers

NHL Hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks will try to keep their faint playoff hopes alive when they play host to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

The Blackhawks picked up a point in their playoff quest Thursday as they lost 4-3 to the Panthers in overtime.

Chicago (22-22-6, 50 points) remains in sixth place in the Central Division and is six points behind Nashville for the final playoff spot with six games remaining.

Florida (33-14-5, 71) has already clinched one of the four playoff spots in the Central and remains in a battle with Carolina and Tampa Bay for the top spot.

This will be the final meeting of the season between the two. Florida has won five of the first seven.

Thursday, Chicago trailed 3-2 before Alex DeBrincat scored with 17.6 seconds left in regulation. Chicago took three late shots against Florida rookie goalie Spencer Knight but couldn’t score.

The Panthers won it on a goal by Sam Bennett with 52 seconds left in the extra frame.

“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” Chicago forward Kirby Dach said. “To not get two points, it (stinks). We’ve got to find a way to get two points. It’s nice to get one point and to claw back a little bit, but we’ve got to find a way to get two almost every night here to give ourselves a chance.”

Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said he was pleased with how his team reacted against the Panthers.

The Blackhawks took the lead twice on goals from Adam Gaudette and Vinnie Hinostroza before the Panthers took the lead in the third on a goal from defenseman Brandon Montour.

Chicago threw everything it had at Knight and the Panthers and got a point out of it. At this point in the season, however, it needs two points desperately.

“It was a step in the right direction,” Colliton said. “We played much harder and gave ourselves a chance. We definitely had our chances in overtime to win it. It’s always sour to lose. You want to have that feeling when you do what you’re supposed to do and you get two points, but it was a step forward.”

Florida was happy to get the full two points to keep pace with the first-place Hurricanes.

“To be able to come away with the two points tonight is huge for our team,” Bennett said, “and for giving us a chance at first.”

Although the Panthers started Knight on Thursday, Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to return to the Florida net on Saturday.

Knight, making just his second NHL start, made 24 saves as is now 3-0 since leaving Boston College in April. Knight relieved Bobrovsky Tuesday in Nashville and started Thursday.

“My approach is to try and give my team the best chance to win,” Knight said. “Obviously I had to come up with some big saves, but my teammates bailed me out a couple of times as well. It was a good team effort.”

Bobrovsky is 17-8-2 this season with a 2.94 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. He is 3-1-0 against the Blackhawks this season, giving up 11 goals on 117 shots faced.

–Field Level Media

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