NHL: Florida Panthers 5, Vancouver Canucks 2
((This story written by George Richards and first posted on Florida Hockey Now))
SUNRISE — With the way Florida scores goals at home, the Vancouver Canucks certainly did not want to get into a track meet with the Panthers on Tuesday night.
The Panthers were certainly in the mood to run.
Florida ran its NHL-best home record to 19-3-0 as it scored in bunches Tuesday, sprinting to a 5-2 win against a Vancouver team which had not played since New Year’s Day.
The Panthers are not a good team to play when you’re trying and get your game legs back.
And, right now, it does not look like a good time to play the Panthers period.
Florida has now won six of its past seven — including five straight at home — as the Panthers have outscored their opponents 37-13 since returning from the Covid/Christmas break with a win against the Rangers on Dec. 29.
Vancouver had not lost in regulation since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench last month.
Aaron Ekblad got things started at 5:18 of the first, his blast with Maxim Mamin down low zipped past Thatcher Damko and the Panthers were off to the races.
Just over a minute later, Radko Gudas fired off a shot from 50 feet out that Sam Reinhart used every inch of his stick to reach and deflect past the Vancouver goalie.
The post-goal stuff is what made this one memorable.
Immediately after seeing the puck went through, Gudas threw down his gloves and challenged Vancouver’s J.T. Miller. Gudas ripped off Miller’s helmet (earning an additional two minutes) and was taken to the ground but, hey, it was one for the books.
Vancouver got one back midway through the period on Jason Dickinson’s odd-angle goal which Sergei Bobrovsky would probably want another chance at.
That was about it for the Canucks highlights this night.
The second period belonged to the Panthers, who again scored two quick ones before Sasha Barkov got one in the final minute.
On Florida’s second power play chance of the night midway through the second, Florida made it 3-1 on a sick snapshot from Jonathan Huberdeau that Reinhart got a piece of on the way in.
Not 30 seconds later and it was 4-1 courtesy of a no-look, between-the-legs pass from Anton Lundell off the backwall which caught Mamin flashing to the net. Mamin cranked the puck into the net and this one was pretty much done.
But it was only the second period.
Barkov got his 15th of the season on a breakaway which gave the Panthers 20 shots through the first 40 minutes.
Vancouver got one of those goals back as Juho Lammikko — remember him? — scored at 4:34 of the third.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sam Reinhart, Florida
2. Aaron Ekblad, Florida
3. Anton Lundell, Florida