Vancouver was the better team throughout, out-shooting the Cats by a 27-15 margin over the first forty minutes. Florida got to the third only down by one thanks to the fine goaltending of former Canuck Roberto Luongo, who kept his club in the game for close to the duration with some high-quality saves.
If that was Luongo’s final appearance in Vancouver, he can be proud of his performance.
Loui Eriksson opened the scoring 12:32 into the middle frame when he pressured Mike Hoffman backwards and into an ill-advised backhand pass that he knocked out of the air. After collecting, Eriksson maneuvered his way around Luongo before shooting the puck in past Hoffman, who tried in vain to play a little net to make up for his poor decision.
After former Panther keeper Jacob Markstrom robbed Nick Bjugstad on a rebound attempt early in the third, the Cats forged a tie at 5:29 when a streaking Frank Vatrano shoveled in a backhander after Henrik Borgstrom found him in the slot with a pretty pass. Aaron Ekblad picked up the secondary assist on Vatrano’s 13th marker.
As we’ve seen all season long, the Panthers allowed the opposition to quickly reply to a Florida goal. Luongo stopped a sharp angle Troy Stecher shot, but Denis Malgin couldn’t get to Hutton, who easily potted the rebound. It was Hutton’s first goal in 30 games. Panthering 101...
Brock Boeser and Jay Beagle added empty-net goals at 17:43 and 19:22, with Eriksson collecting the primary assists on both, and Markus Granlund added insult to injury by beating Luongo with 11 seconds left on the clock to complete the scoring after Tyler Motte bulldozed into the zone and took on three Panther defenders.
After two solid, but losing performances in Alberta, the Panthers did not play very well in this one, except for the early part of the third period. That said, they found themselves in an unlikely draw with 14:31 left in the tilt. Once again, they couldn’t rise up to come away with a win. Florida’s big guns were pretty silent, as is the case in most losses. Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau combined for one shot on goal and each winger finished -3. Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov had some shots, but no points and each went -2. In a game that potentially could have a lot of meaning for their venerable goalie, Luongo deserved better from his teammates. Fight fans were treated to a good, long bout between Micheal Haley and ex-Cat Erik Gudbranson. The Panthers head east to Montreal to complete the road trip on Tuesday.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)