Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane celebrates his goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
CHICAGO - Blackhawks all-star forward Patrick Kane finally got back on target.
Kane ended a seven-game goal drought and set up linemate Jonathan Toews' breakaway score in Chicago's 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Defenceman Duncan Keith added his first goal in 30 games to help Chicago take the NHL lead, a point ahead of Detroit. The Blackhawks have won three straight and are 5-0-1 in their last six games.
Toews, who leads Chicago with 27 goals, has goals in four straight games and extended his points streak to six games. But Kane's goal was just his second in 14 games.
"A lot of guys have been producing around here, so it was nice to come up for the team tonight and score a big one," Kane said. "Any time you can score after a slump and a lot of focus on it, it's a good feeling."
Kane, who took a team-leading five shots, has been playing right wing on a line with Toews at centre and Viktor Stalberg on left wing. The trio has been clicking, but Kane has been missing on scoring chances.
"It was a matter of time, because in the last couple of games he was trending where he had great looks, more looks and more quality looks," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I expect him to get more confident and keep it going."
Ray Emery made 18 saves, allowing only Jason Garrison's power-play goal 43 seconds into the third period.
Emery wasn't heavily tested as Chicago's built a 3-0 lead and allowed a season-low 19 shots. Garrison connected on one of only four Florida shots in the third period.
"We stayed focused and kept the lead," Emery said. "We did a really good job defensively."
The Panthers dropped their eighth straight on the road and slipped to 1-3-3 in their last seven overall.
"They just have a strong defensive team and they have a real good system over there," said Florida forward Jack Skille, who returned to the Panthers lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
But the Panthers problems go beyond just running into a streaking Chicago team.
"We have to start playing as a team like we played the first 30-35 games of the season," Kopecky said. "Right now we are maybe trying too much and squeezing the stick a little too much."
Skille and Kopecky were among five Florida players who were on Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup championship team along with defenceman Brian Campbell and forwards Kris Versteeg and John Madden.
Campbell, who was traded to Florida last summer, and Kopecky, who left as a free agent, returned to the United Center for the first time. Versteeg, traded to Toronto shortly after the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup, also made his first appearance since leaving. Skille played in Chicago last season with the Panthers and Madden played two games in Chicago with Minnesota.
The game started a little over a half-hour late, at 8:08 p.m., because of snow. The announced attendance at the 20,500-seat United Center was 21,555, but about 2,000 seats remained empty.
The Panthers' bus from their downtown hotel arrived at the arena at about 6:45 p.m.
Toews and Keith scored just over 2 minutes apart late in the first.
Toews opened the scoring with 2:20 left on a breakaway. After taking Kane's feed, Toews got behind Garrison and beat goalie Jose Theodore with a backhand shot.
Keith made it 2-0 with 17 seconds left in the period on a low screened shot from the top of the slot. It was his first goal since Nov. 13.
Kane extended Chicago's lead to 3-0 with 6:55 left in the second on a 2-on-1 with Stalberg. Kane held the puck, then fired a shot from the right circle under Theodore's glove.
Emery lost a shutout bid early in the third when Garrison blasted in a screened shot from the blue line. He connected from a faceoff, just 4 seconds after Toews was sent off for tripping.
Theodore made 19 saves.
NOTES: Chicago's Marian Hossa has an assist to extend his points streak to seven games (one goal, seven assists). ... Chicago LW Patrick Sharp (fractured left wrist) missed his sixth game. ... Florida RW Scottie Upshall returned aftermissing 30 games because of a hip injury. LW Sean Bergenheim came back after missing 12 games because of a lower-body injury.
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