The last thing any team in playoff contention needs is an injury to a star player.
Patrick Kane, who entered the night tied for the NHL lead in scoring with 27 goals and 37 assists, left the game in the first period and didn't return after falling awkwardly into the boards midway through the opening frame of the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win Tuesday night over the Florida Panthers at the United Center.
With 2:11 left in the period, Panthers' defenseman Alex Petrovic was sent to the penalty box for a two-minute minor penalty for cross-checking. The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead on the ensuing power play on a goal by Jonathan Toews, who surpassed fellow No. 19 Troy Murray for sole possession of 17th place on the Blackhawks career point list with 490.
It was the first time the Blackhawks had a first period lead during their eight-game homestand.
In his first start since Dec. 13, Scott Darling made 34 saves before the shootout for his sixth win of the season. Darling also stopped Derek MacKenzie's penalty shot 7:10 into the second.
Kris Versteeg scored the second goal in the middle frame off a feed from Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp, who scored his 500th point on the helper. Sharp is the 15th player in franchise history to reach that mark.
Florida cut the lead in half when Jussi Jokinen beat Darling to denied him his first career shutout. Vincent Trocheck tied the game with 3:27 left when he threw a puck to the net that bounced off Duncan Keith's skate and crossed the goal line.
But after blowing a two goal, third-period lead, Toews and Sharp scored on their shootout attempts, while Darling stopped Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad for the win.
The Blackhawks inched closer to second-place with two points in hand, while the St. Louis Blues fell 5-2 to Montreal at home.
The celebration was mute after the game by the unknown status of Kane. Versteeg sounded like he might know more when he spoke to CSN after being named the game's No. 1 star.
"We're ticked off when the best player in the league gets hurt," Versteeg said. "It's going to be an uphill battle without him."
Chicago travels to Sunrise to play the Panthers again Thursday night.