Reinhart Lifts The Panthers Over Blackhawks in a Sunday Matinee

Reinhart Panthers Blackhawks Sunday

The Florida Panthers ended their home stand with a back and forth victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. With two goals from Sam Reinhart and one from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Carter Verhaeghe, the Panthers had lots of energy in a Sunday matinee win over the Blackhawks.

Special Teams Shines

The Panthers went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill Sunday, and have not allowed a power play goal since Nov. 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their last three games, they have killed all eight penalties they’ve faced, and the only shot on goal they’ve allowed came during Chicago’s first man advantage on Sunday.

Before this three-game stretch, the Panthers penalty kill was near the bottom of the league, only killing penalties 71 percent of the time.

Two of Florida’s four goals Sunday were scored on the power play: one that deflected off Reinhart’s stick in the crease in the first period to go up 2-1, and another by Verhaeghe who got his stick on a rebounded puck right in front of the net for the penultimate goal to lead 4-3 early in the third period.

“We haven’t had a night … where it’s probably just special teams at the end,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said after the game. “Our penalty kill was outstanding and we had two (goals) on our power play. So those guys need that feeling coming off the ice that they were the difference in the game, and they haven’t had that in tandem together. So that was the most important thing for us.”

Bennett is Back

Panthers forward Sam Bennett made his return to the lineup – a full game, this time. The 27-year old, who missed the beginning of the season after sustaining a lower body injury in a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 5, reinjured himself in his regular season debut against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 30. With 13 minutes left in the second period, Bennett appeared to reinjure his left leg when he got wrapped up with Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who fell and landed on Bennett’s left leg. 

Sunday’s return was much more joyous for Bennett and the Panthers. Playing the full game and logging 16:51 time on the ice, Bennett delivered a big hit that knocked Lukas Reichel on his feet in Chicago’s offensive zone halfway through the first period.

“Really really good,” Maurice said of his thoughts on Bennett’s first full game back. “ He’s physical so he doesn’t change his game a whole lot. He drives that line.”

Bennett added, “you really do miss the game when you’re out and rehabbing for so long. So it felt really great to be back out there and get a win tonight.

Connor Bedard Put on a Show

While it was nice for the fans to go home with a win, it would have felt a little incomplete if they didn’t get to see the 18-year-old phenom score a couple goals.

His first was a pick-pocket of Panthers forward Kevin Stenlund deep in Chicago’s defensive zone. After Bedard took the puck, he turned his body to the net and ripped a high-angle wrist shot top shelf from the red line.

His second came in the next period when he carried the puck into the offensive zone on his own and scored on a wrist shot while jockeying with Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Panthers defenseman Dmity Kulikov gave him a welcome-to-the-league moment towards the end of the second period when he plastered Bedard against the half boards, bringing Bedard to the ground. Blackhawks forward Nick Foligno immediately went after Kulikov and earned himself a four minute double-minor for hooking and roughing.

What’s Next?

The Panthers will leave the friendly confines of Amerant Bank Arena where they have gone 6-1-0 to start the year and travel to the west coast to play the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 14, followed by the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 16 and 17.

Photo Credit: Florida Panthers

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