BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The last sporting event that I saw occurred was on December 27, 2020, when the Chicago Bears thrashed the Jacksonville Jaguars in Northern Florida 41-17.
My first sports event of 2021 has featured yet another Chicago team facing another from Florida and this one occurred 4.5 hours South on I-95.
During my lifetime, I’ve grown accustomed to watching classic games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.
Tonight was a different feeling as I entered the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.
When the Detroit Red Wings came to town to face the Florida Panthers, I was representing the Detroit Monitor.
Tonight, the Red Wings are hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets while I’m representing My Own Publication, The South Florida Tribune.
The opponent is the Chicago Blackhawks. These teams faced each other on Sunday as the Panthers defeated the Blackhawks 5-2.
During COVID-19, the Blackhawks and Panthers are in the newly aligned Central Division and will face other eight times.
Panthers Coach Joel Quenneville has won three Stanley Cup Championships with the Blackhawks in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
During the morning skate, the coach was asked what it was like to face a team eight times during the regular season.
“Prep wise, you get an idea what the teams do systematically,” Quenneville said. “By the end of year, everyone will be familiar with each other through videos as we go over each game and analyze it.”
Ah yes, this reminds me of the old Original Six Days when teams knew each other inside and out.
How would this Illinois vs Florida encounter turn out?
The Florida Panthers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime as Frank Vatrano put the biscuit in the basket with 2:10 left.
This sent the crowd of 3,667 fans happy as the Panthers allow 25% capacity and are one of three teams to allow fans.
The Blackhawks out shot the Panthers 34-28, but that wasn’t enough.
The Blackhawks dropped to 0-3-1. The Panthers (2-0) improved their All-Time record vs Chicago to 15-18-3-7. They improved their home mark to 8-9-1-4.
Carter Verhaeghe scored two goals for the Panthers and Patric Hornqvist also scored. Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist for Florida.
Going into the game, Yandle tallied his 100th NHL Goal in the January 17 contest vs Chicago.
Yandle also played in his 868th consecutive game, the longest active streak and fourth longest in NHL History. Yandle has not missed a game since March 22, 2009 when he was with the Arizona Coyotes.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for Florida in his first start but appeared to be rusty.
When the contest was over, Vatrano said it was a great feeling to come away with the win.
“It was a great team effort,” he said. “We have to get the points from the get go especially during the short season. We had a resilient effort tonight. “We have guys that have been there before. That will be the key all season.”
Quennenneville was very pleased with the outcome especially since his team trailed 4-3 late into the third period.
“This was an exciting game. I like the way we battled back,” he said. “It’s a huge win and we’ll take it. I like the pace we showed. There has been a lot of drama in two games. This will be a competitive division and we have to take care of business at home. Detroit has won two games.”
The Chicago Blackhawks return to action and host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at 8 pm.
The Panthers were scheduled to face the Carolina Hurricanes in North Carolina on Thursday and Saturday. But on Wednesday, the NHL decided it is postponing the games due to COVID-19 concerns.
There would be no Windy City Sweep in the two games I’ve covered between teams in Florida and Illinois.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Southfloridatribune@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.