Bennett beat Kevin Lankinen with a rising shot over the glove from the slot for his ninth goal after the Blackhawks had dominated in overtime and tested 20-year-old Florida goaltender Spencer Knight, who played in just this third NHL game.
The win kept Florida two points behind first-place Carolina and one ahead of third-place Tampa Bay in the tight Central Division.
Alex DeBrincat scored on a one-timer with 18 seconds left in regulation for his 24th goal, tying the game at 3-all and forcing overtime. He beat Knight from the left circle after taking Patrick Kane’s cross-ice feed and with Lankinen on the bench for an extra attacker.
Alex Wennberg and Brandon Mountour each had a goal and assist for the Panthers, who improved to 7-2-1 in their last 10. Anthony Duclair also scored.
Knight made 24 saves in his second start and third appearance with Florida since signing a three-year, entry-level contract on March 31. Knight, who won in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky on Tuesday, improved to 3-0-0 in the NHL after starring for two seasons at Boston College.
Adam Gaudette and Vinnie Hinostroza also scored for Chicago, which is six points behind fourth-place Nashville in the race for the division’s final playoff spot. The Blackhawks have six games remaining.
Lankinen stopped 35 shots.
Gaudette scored his first goal with the Blackhawks since being acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline, opening the scoring on a backhander from a scrum in front at 13:47 of the first period.
Dominik Kubalik’s initial shot bounced off several players in front, then Gaudette shoveled in the loose puck before the Panthers defense or Knight could react.
Wennberg’s power-play deflection at 7:47 of the second tied it 1. Alone in front, he ticked in MacKenzie Weegar’s shot from the top of the slot.
Hinostroza put Chicago back ahead 2-1 at 10:09 with a nifty, on-the-fly tip-in of Brandon Hagel’s pinpoint feed to the right edge of the crease.
Duclair whipped in a rebound of Montour’s soft shot three minutes later, tying it at 2-all.
Knight slid across the crease to make a right pad save and rob Alex DeBrincat on a point-blank tip-in attempt with 4:40 left in the second.
DeBrincat deflected in a puck during a short-handed rush with about two minutes left in the period, but the goal was disallowed because DeBrincat’s stick was above his shoulder.
Montour scored at 9:09 of the third to put Florida ahead 3-2 Montour trailed in on the play, took a feed from Wennberg and beat Lankinen with a shot from the slot as Aleksi Heponiemi distracted at the edge of the crease.
FANS TO RETURN TO UNITED CENTER
The Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls announced Thursday they have permission from the city and state to host fans at 25% capacity starting with Bulls vs. Boston Celtics on May 7 and Blackhawks vs. Dallas Stars on May 9. The Blackhawks will allow a few hundred player family members and team-invited guests to attend their game against the Panthers this Saturday.
Tickets will be sold in groups of two to four adjacent seats, with no group closer than 6 feet apart. Fans over age 2 will be required to wear masks except when eating and drinking.
Florida: Coach Joel Quenneville said RW Patric Hornqvist, who sat out his third game with an upper-body injury, is progressing. … LW Mason Marchment (upper-body) missed his fifth game and C Carter Verhaeghe (upper-body) missed his 10th.
Chicago: D Adam Boqvist is out for the season with a broken right wrist, suffered on Tuesday when he was hit by Tampa Bay D Erik Cernak. Rookie D Nicolas Beaudin took the roster spot on Thursday. … D Calvin de Haan (hip) missed his third game. … Gaudette, acquired at the trade deadline from Vancouver, played his second game with the Blackhawks, while C Philipp Kurashev was a healthy scratch.
The teams meet again in Chicago on Saturday night.
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