Sam Bennett shines again for Panthers with overtime winner

It seems that Sam Bennett just needed a change of scenery and a fresh start.

He continued to make a massive impact for the Florida Panthers on Thursday night when he scored the overtime goal in a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The win helps the Panthers keep pace with Carolina and Tampa Bay in the Central Division race. They currently have a one-point lead over the Lightning for second place, while trailing the Hurricanes by two points for the top spot. Both teams have two games in hand on the Panthers.

Alexander Wennberg, Anthony Duclair, and Brandon Montour (another trade deadline pickup) also scored goals for the Panthers in the win, while Spencer Knight stopped 24 out of 27 shots to improve his record to a perfect 3-0-0 on the season. He has stopped 66 out of 70 shots in his first three appearances. His biggest stop on Thursday came in overtime just before Bennett’s winner when he stoned a wide open Patrick Kane.

[Related: Sam Bennett hits ground running for Panthers]

But for as good as Knight has been, and for as good as the Panthers continue to be in their surprising rise to the top of the division, the big story on Thursday is still Bennett. After failing to make a consistent impact in Calgary and being the subject of trade rumors for more than a year the Flames finally shipped him to Florida at the deadline for a second-round pick and Emil Heineman (the Panthers’ second-round pick in 2020).

The early results for the Panthers have been better than anybody could have hoped for.

With his overtime winner on Thursday, he already has five goals and 11 total points in his first eight games with the Panthers. He has been one of the most productive players to change teams at the deadline and is producing at a rate we did not see from him in Calgary. Keep in mind he had just 12 points in 38 games with the Flames before the trade. That came after he recorded 12 points in 52 games a year ago.

The Panthers already had the superstars at the top of the lineup with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

What they needed to take a step forward as an organization was some secondary support around them. Since the start of the offseason they have done a great job assembling that depth with the additions of Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, Wennberg, and now Bennett added to that mix.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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