Kevin Lankinen’s 41-save shutout completes Blackhawks’ sweep of Panthers

Lankinen demonstrated the mental resilience he’ll need to be a No. 1 goalie this week, saving 74 of 76 shots in a two-game sweep of the Panthers.

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Kevin Lankinen recorded his second career shutout Thursday.

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If there were any doubts about whether Kevin Lankinen could handle the long-term tribulations of being a No. 1 NHL goalie, he dispelled them this week.

Lankinen stole one for the Blackhawks on Thursday, with his 41-save shutout — the most saves in a shutout by any NHL goalie this season and the most by any rookie goalie in franchise history — carrying the Hawks to a 3-0 victory over the Panthers.

He finished the Hawks’ two-game home sweep of the Panthers, a team that had beaten them in all four previous meetings this year, with a .974 save percentage: 74 saves on 76 shots.

“He’s been really solid, under control,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He’s made some big saves, but he’s looked comfortable in there, even on the routine saves. He’s been working hard, and hopefully this is a real confidence-builder.”

Added Lankinen: “It’s never easy to win in this league. So I’m really grateful for every chance I get to start, and even more grateful for every win we’re able to get.”

Other than a late empty-net goal by Brandon Hagel, fellow wing Patrick Kane provided all the offense the Hawks needed, cleaning up a power-play scramble and then setting up an Alex DeBrincat-Pius Suter 2-on-1 that led to another goal.

The Panthers otherwise hounded the Hawks for much of the game, with a 73-34 edge in shot attempts.

Only because of Lankinen did the Hawks survive. The most defining moment came when he stopped Panthers wing Jonathan Huberdeau on a 3-on-0 rush in the second period.

“It was pretty obvious that we did not have our best, and we gave up a lot of chances the first couple periods,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Lanks was huge that way.”

Lankinen had struggled earlier in March, going 1-4-1 with an .887 save percentage in his last six starts, so his mental resilience and confidence are now shining especially brightly.

“That’s part of being in the league and showing that you’re up to the task,” Colliton said. “There’s going to be adversity, and there’s going to be nights that it goes against you. Everyone goes through it. But if you want to survive, you do have to respond. So it’s a big few games for him here.”

Dach returning soon?

Forward Kirby Dach (wrist) seems to be getting closer and closer to returning — remarkably ahead of schedule after mid-April initially seemed optimistic.

Colliton has repeatedly avoided giving a timetable but offered an encouraging hint when asked after Wednesday’s practice if he had a date set yet.

“No, unfortunately,” Colliton said with a wry grin. “But he does look good, doesn’t he?”

It wouldn’t be shocking to see Dach play sometime during the remaining four games of the Hawks’ homestand.

Hagel getting PP time

Hagel, who only had about two minutes of power-play ice time this whole season before last weekend, has become a regular on the top power-play unit in the last three games.

He recorded his first NHL power-play point with an assist Thursday. It was the first two-point game of his career.

“Personally, I’m trying to help these guys get into the zone with my speed and get pucks [back for the power play],” he said.

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