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Panthers defeat Blackhawks in Quenneville’s return to Chicago

CHICAGO — Joel Quenneville won his first game at United Center as Florida Panthers coach when Frank Vatrano scored a hat trick in a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for Florida (28-16-5), which extended its season-high winning streak to six games.Quenneville, who led the Blackhawks to three Stanley…

Panthers defeat Blackhawks in Quenneville’s return to Chicago

CHICAGO — Joel Quenneville won his first game at United Center as Florida Panthers coach when Frank Vatrano scored a hat trick in a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for Florida (28-16-5), which extended its season-high winning streak to six games.

Quenneville, who led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships (2010, 2013, 2015) went 452-249-96 in 11 seasons before he was fired by Chicago on Nov. 6, 2018. The Panthers hired Quenneville on April 8, 2019.

[WATCH: All Panthers vs. Blackhawks highlights]

“That felt unbelievable,” said Quenneville, who was honored with a video tribute during the first period. “It was a great feeling. Captured some special moments in the building [with] the enthusiasm and the excitement and the noise. 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.”

Video: FLA@CHI: Dadonov lifts backhander for opening goal

Kirby Dach had a goal and an assist for Chicago (24-21-6), which had won a season-high five straight games. Robin Lehner made 22 saves.

“Disappointing not get to a win,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think really liked our first period. I thought we played hard.”

It was the last game for each team before the All-Star break. With the win, the Panthers moved four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.

“We’ve achieved our goal before the break,” Bobrovsky said. “We’re right where we want to be. But we have to focus on having a good rest and the most important thing is ahead of us.”

Vatrano scored on a wrist shot from the right face-off circle for a 2-0 lead at 6:14 of the second period, then made it 3-0 at 10:04. He completed his second NHL hat trick at 19:23 of the second with a power-play goal that made it 4-1.

“It’s always nice to be rewarded like that; scoring one goal in this league’s hard enough,” Vatrano said. “[A] hat trick’s a great honor, and obviously [it] couldn’t have been done without the guys out there on the ice.”

Evgenii Dadonov scored with a backhand shot to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 4:43 of the second period.

Dach, who turned 19 on Tuesday, ended a 13-game goal drought when he made it 3-1 at 13:33.

“It feels good,” Dach said. “Obviously you always like to score and want to score, and for me it was a long time coming. I felt confident in my game and I just knew I had to keep going and eventually it will go in.”

Drake Caggiula redirected Erik Gustafsson‘s shot from the point for a power-play goal at 4:00 of the third period to make it 4-2.

Patrick Kane scored his 25th of the season with 1:15 remaining for the 4-3 final. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) during a 11-game point streak, the longest active streak in the NHL.

“We had our chances in our first and early in the second, and then we just weren’t strong enough defensively, probably in the second half of the second period,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “[We] gave them too much and gave them a 4-1 lead. It’s tough to come back from that.”

Video: Enterprise Hat Trick: Vatrano nets three vs. Hawks

They said it

“We just have to relax, get some more energy, come back in the second half. The rest of the season is going to be tough, so we have to be prepared for that.” — Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau

“Honestly, I thought we played well. I kind of let the team down today. I should’ve made a couple more saves. I thought there wasn’t a step back at all; I just needed to find a way to stop the bleeding a little bit and pick myself up. [I] felt better and then they scored a fourth goal off the skate, but I started the bleeding with the first goal and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t stop it early enough.” — Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner

Need to know

Florida, which won 5-4 at the Minnesota Wild on Monday, is 7-2-1 in the second game of a back-to-back. … Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has nine points (three goals, six assists) during a six-game point streak and 399 points in his NHL career. … Florida forward Mike Hoffman had two assists and extended his point streak to 10 games (five goals, eight assists). … Lehner has not won in his past six games against the Panthers (0-5-1). … Dach is the first player with a multipoint game on his birthday of players 19 or younger since Wayne Gretzky on Jan. 26, 1980.

What’s next

Panthers: At the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 1 (2 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Blackhawks: At the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 1 (8 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-A PLUS, NBCSCH, NHL.TV)

Video: Vatrano lifts Panthers to sixth straight victory

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