Blackhawks' torrid comeback wasted

Special to the Tribune

The Blackhawks rallied for three goals in the final period Saturday night, but let one slip away in overtime in a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

Olli Jokinen scored on Gary Roberts' assist with 1:03 left in overtime to lift the Panthers.

The goal was justice perhaps because Jokinen missed a shot as time expired in regulation. It went through the legs of Nikolai Khabibulin and off the back of his right skate.

Despite picking up a point, it was the Hawks' fifth straight loss on the road and first to the Panthers since Nov. 4, 1998. Florida snapped an eight-game winless streak against them.

"Obviously you don't want to get off to a slow start to any team, but we did," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said. "I give the guys credit for fighting back, but we didn't get enough."

Rene Bourque pointed to the Panthers being one of the bottom teams in the league.

"I think our team has a problem playing teams that are not at the top of the league," Bourque said. "If we don't come out strong we're going to get it taken to us. We have trouble getting motivated against weaker teams."

The Hawks trailed 2-0 entering the final period and were finally able to get a shot past the Panthers' Roberto Luongo with 13:40 left to play. Martin Lapointe got his fourth goal of the season on an assist from Matt Ellison.

The Panthers answered on Nathan Horton's secondgoal just 12 seconds later.

Bourque put away his sixth goal of the season and Chicago again trailed by one, 3-2. Finally, after striking out on numerous power-play opportunities, Mikael Holmquist scored with two seconds left in a Hawks advantage with 6:58 left to tie the score 3-3.

"In the second period we had a lot of turnovers and after that we played a lot better," Lapointe said. "It gave us a chance to go out and win a game."

Through two periods the Blackhawks were flat. They wasted five power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 chance.

Ultimately lost opportunities derailed the Blackhawks.

"There was nothing left to be said," Bourque said. "Everybody knew what we were supposed to do. We weren't playing well and we had to pick up our game.

"We fought back from 2-0 but we still lost."

Perhaps still weary from Friday night's shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hawks looked sluggish in the first period and it proved costly.

A lack of defenders to help Khabibulin in front of the net resulted in a 1-0 deficit. Horton was left unattended just in front of the crease and he took a quick wrist shot after a pass from behind the net by Roberts at 13:52.

Juraj Kolnik's slap shot from the right wing on a pass from Lukas Krajicek beat Khabibulin inside the right post for his fifth goal of the season for a 2-0 lead.

Staying true to form, the Hawks fell to 1-9 when trailing after the first period.

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