Blackhawks’ Winning Streak Ends in Joel Quenneville’s Return

On a night that marked both ex-coach Joel Quenneville’s return and Patrick Kane’s 1,000 point commemoration, the Blackhawks would end their five-game winning streak with a 4-3 loss at home to the Florida Panthers last night.

As if the night needed any more storylines, it was reported prior to the game that Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith engaged in a “skirmish” during their morning practice. No punches were thrown, but the two teammates did wrestle each other down to the ice, with Toews removing Keith’s jersey in the tussle. Although Keith was not available for comment at the time, both Toews and head coach Jeremy Colliton downplayed the incident after practice.

“Just a little friendly wrestling,” Toews said with a smile. “We’re ready to go. It’s a big game tonight (against Florida). I think the whole point of morning skate is to get going and we’re ready now.”

Unfortunately, the Hawks as a whole would fail to show any fight until the third period, when it was too little, too late.

After a scoreless first period, Florida would jump to a quick 3-0 lead after an uncharacteristic performance by Hawks goalie Robin Lehner, who has arguably been the most consistent player all season for Chicago.

“I needed to make a couple more saves today,” Lehner said after the game. “We would have been right in the game, and I didn’t.”

Panther forward Evgenii Dadonov would open the scoring by squeaking a puck between Lehner’s skate and the goal post. En route to a hat-trick to finish the period, Frank Vatrano would add two more goals for Florida, before Hawks rookie Kirby Dach — who had not scored a goal in exactly one month to the day — finally broke his scoreless drought on none other than his birthday, snapping a backhander over the shoulder of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for his seventh goal of the year.

After a turnover by Hawks forward Ryan Carpenter, Vatrano would complete his second-career hat trick on the power play to close out the second period.

The Blackhawks would make things interesting in the third, with Drake Caggiula scoring on the power play six minutes into the period and Kane scoring his 25th goal of the season with just over a minute left to make it 4-3 — but the rally would eventually fall short. On a night in which both Patrick Kane and Joel Quenneville were honored, it was perhaps fitting (if not bittersweet) that the star forward scored his 1,001st point, with the ex-coach earning the victory against his former team.

Joining his family and girlfriend at center-ice, Kane was honored in a pre-game ceremony in which he was presented a video of his career. He was also presented with a commemorative gold puck by his first coach, fellow Blackhawk 1,000 point producer Denis Savard; as well as a commemorative plaque by Jill Mikita, wife of the late franchise leader in points, Stan Mikita.

During the first TV timeout, Quenneville was also honored with a video of his own, highlighting the fiery nature of the beloved ex-coach who led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships.

“That felt unbelievable,” Quenneville said. “It was a great feeling. Captured some special moments in the building when the enthusiasm and the excitement and the noise and Kaner’s starting the game off like that, and the building was rocking. It felt like a different game. Had some importance to it. It was special. It was kind of like saying thank you to me and I was thanking them, and it was all good. Felt great. That was certainly a memorable ovation I’m thankful for.”

The only thing missing from the night was a victory for the Blackhawks, who won’t play until February 1st due to the All-Star break. Fortunately, the Hawks still remain just three points out of a Wild-Card spot, as both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Winnipeg Jets also lost last night. The Hawks are also four points behind the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Central Division, although Dallas holds three games in-hand over Chicago.

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