SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s been a rough few weeks for South Florida hockey fans.
The Florida Panthers and their fans needed a reason to feel good about themselves, and they got it.
Jonathan Marchessault scored his first career hat trick, James Reimer stopped 25 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Panthers routed the Chicago Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday night.
Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and three assists, and Aleksander Barkov added a goal and two assists for Florida. Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad also scored to give the Panthers their largest margin of victory since an 8-0 win over Toronto on Feb. 5, 2008.
“It was good to see the guys score. Not only score, but the goals were beautiful goals,” Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said. “The team, the owners and the fans needed a feel-good day.”
Marchessault had two goals in a 3-1 victory over Arizona on Thursday. He has nine goals over his last nine games and leads the Panthers with 28.
“It was just an amazing game overall,” Marchessault said. “Everybody should be feeling good right now. It’s not just any team over there on the other side.”
Reimer got his 15th career shutout and first with the Panthers.
“It’s fun to get shutouts, fun to win and fun to beat the top teams in the league,” Reimer said.
Florida remained seven points behind Boston for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Corey Crawford stopped 21 shots for the playoff-bound Blackhawks before being lifted at 4:59 of the third period for Scott Darling, who allowed three goals on six shots.
The Western Conference-leading Blackhawks had won six of seven coming into the game.
“Tough loss, especially when a lot of Chicago fans came out and watch this game here in Florida and we have an outing like that. We’ve got to be better,” center Jonathan Toews said. “We have to get motivated and light that fire again and play the right kind of hockey going into the playoffs.”
Already leading 3-0, the Panthers poured in four goals in the third.
They padded their advantage to 4-0 on Marchessault’s second goal. Colton Sceviour passed across to Marchessault in the left circle, and his goal chased Crawford.
Marchessault’s third goal came when he beat Darling between the legs at 7:13 to make it 5-0, and the rout was on.
Bjugstad redirected a shot by Sceviour into the net at 7:53, and Smith poked in a rebound with 8:15 left.
Barkov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 17 seconds into the second period. During 4-on-4 play, Huberdeau passed to Barkov in the right circle and his wrist shot went over Crawford’s glove.
Florida stretched its lead to 2-0 during a 5-on-3 power play, which came after Chicago’s Marcus Kruger was called for interference during a four-minute power play. Barkov passed to Huberdeau in the right circle and he fired a shot past Crawford on the short side at 10:21 of the second.
“We were moving along fine until that one call changed the whole complexion of the game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You got a breakaway or it’s a 5-on-3 for two minutes. You can’t get a bigger swing than that. That was an ugly, ugly game the way it ended up.”
Later in the same shift, Marchessault made it 3-0 when he one-timed a shot from the left circle at 11:40.
Florida forward Jaromir Jagr was hip-checked along the boards by Chicago’s Richard Panik early in the second period. Jagr left the game for one shift as the trainer looked at his left knee. He returned for the rest of the second, but was out for the third period.
NOTES: Panthers D Aaron Ekblad missed four consecutive games due to a concussion, came back for one game, and now has missed two straight with a neck injury. … Blackhawks D Brian Campbell still holds the Panthers record with 376 consecutive games played. Campbell was with the Panthers from 2011-16 and was given a video tribute on the scoreboard in the first period.
Panthers: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
Blackhawks: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)