Panarin, Bobrovsky team up to thwart Chicago Blackhawks
It didn't take Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky long to show a sold-out United Center why they might be the most coveted free agents in the NHL when the off-season rolls around.
Panarin scored his 23rd and 24th goals and dished out his 43rd assist, and Bobrovsky flat-out robbed shooter after shooter during the Blue Jackets' 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
Panarin scored 17 seconds after Patrick Kane tied the game at 1-1 in the first period, then extended Columbus' lead to 4-2 just 12 seconds into the third period by deflecting a long shot by Seth Jones.
Meanwhile, Bobrovsky made 33 saves through two periods, at least 8 of which were on high-quality attempts. Jonathan Toews, Dylan Sikura, Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad were all victimized by Bobrovsky. Sikura had the best chance, but he failed to lift the puck on a point-blank attempt, and Columbus' 6-foot-2 netminder got his leg in the way in time to deny the rookie his first NHL goal.
Bobrovsky finished with 39 saves.
Fans cheered Panarin when he was introduced as a starter.
"I would really like to thank the fans for the warm welcome," said Panarin, who had 151 points in two seasons with the Hawks. "I really appreciate it. I miss the fans in Chicago."
Kane added an assist and extended his point streak to 17 games, but the Hawks fell to 24-26-9 and remain 3 points behind Minnesota and 6 behind Dallas in the chase for the final two wild-card spots. Kane also extended his assist streak to 16 games, becoming just one of five players to accomplish that feat.
"The negative is we lost 2 points and we missed an opportunity to close the gap in the race that we're in," said Jeremy Colliton said. "But the positive is we were in a bad spot (down 3-1) and we turned the game. And we were right there. Let's find a way to do it for more of the 60 minutes and we're good enough."
Toews cut Columbus' lead to 3-2 with just 34 seconds remaining in the second period. The momentum didn't last long, though, thanks to Panarin, who showed he still has a sharp wit after he was asked about his second goal.
"I was worried that (Jones) was going to hit my soft spot," Panarin said, sporting a wry smile. "That's why I was trying to run away and it hit my stick."
Toews and Colliton were adamant that the Hawks gave Panarin far too much time and space all night.
"He's one of those guys that can kind of wait in the weeds and pounce when he has a chance and make you pay," Toews said. "He's a dangerous player. … I'm sure he had that chip on his shoulder and he wanted to produce and make us pay, and obviously he played a pretty good game."
Said Panarin: "It (is) very important for me to score in general, (but) especially against the Blackhawks."
Corey Crawford (sick) did not participate in morning skate. … Wayne Gretzky holds the record for longest assist streak at 23 games. Adam Oates is next with 18. ... Erik Gustafsson had a point for a fourth straight game. He now has 38 points in 56 games.