The Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Panthers on Thursday was a game for disgruntled players thriving in new situations.
Vinnie Hinostroza, the ex-Panthers forward enjoying a brilliant April in Chicago, scored for the Hawks in his first matchup against his now-former team.
But Sam Bennett, the ex-Flames forward tearing it up just as much for the Panthers in recent weeks, struck late in OT to deal the Hawks another defeat.
“It was a step forward,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We had more than enough [chances] to score in overtime, so that leaves a sour taste not to get the two points. But speaking of the overall performance, [I’m] much happier with how we came out tonight and competed than the last game.”
The Hawks have lost four of their last five games with just six left in the regular season, and nearly suffered a third straight regulation setback Thursday. Alex DeBrincat provided some late drama, however, finding open space back-door and roofing a feed from Patrick Kane to tie the game with 17.6 seconds left.
After a long stretch of uninterrupted overtime hockey, most of which the Hawks spent in possession, Bennett — who now boasts 11 points in his first eight games with the Panthers — roared down the left wing and beat Kevin Lankinen over his shoulder.
Hinostroza, who temporarily gave the Hawks a 2-1 second-period lead after burying a feed from his so-called “Bash Bro” Brandon Hagel, reveled little in the proposed revenge-game narrative.
“I don’t look at it as my old team,” he said. “It’s just another team in the NHL. I’ve been here a month, this is my team. This is where I want to be. I want to help this team win.”
The fact the Hawks dressed not only Hinostroza but also two other recent ex-Panthers in Riley Stillman and Brett Connolly could’ve been more of an advantage had the two teams not already seen each other six times this season — and if Joel Quenneville wasn’t coaching the other side.
Fellow newcomer Adam Gaudette did make an impact, scoring his first goal as a Hawk in the first period.
Hardman won’t forget debut
Mike Hardman’s NHL debut Tuesday was even more special than expected because his mom, dad and two grandparents were in attendance in a United Center suite.
“I didn’t really know if they were going to be able to come because of all the COVID stuff, but they were able to make it out,” Hardman said Wednesday. “All four of them have been there every step of the way for me, so it was really important for them to be able to see my first game. It was a night I’ll never forget.”
Hardman impressed in limited playing time, which Colliton later regretted wasn’t higher, and stayed in the lineup for his second game Thursday.
“He was physical, he made some plays, he skated well,” Colliton said. “Very good debut for him, so that was positive.”
No AHL playoffs
The AHL announced Thursday it won’t hold league playoffs this season, which means the Rockford IceHogs’ season will end May 15.
With a 9-15-1 record, the Hawks affiliate wasn’t exactly deserving of a playoff berth anyway. This year has been more about prospect development than winning. Dylan McLaughlin and Cody Franson, two players on AHL-only contracts, share the team scoring lead with 17 points each; Evan Barratt is the top-scoring Hawks prospect with 12 points.