Many feared the Florida Panthers would catch an angry bunch of Vancouver Canucks after the visitors were absolutely hammered by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
The Panthers quickly took the air out of that thought balloon with early goals from Noel Acciari and Mark Pysyk to build a lead they would never relinquish and cruised to a 5-2 win that pulled them within a point of a playoff spot.
Sergei Bobrovsky made his first start of the second half of the campaign and stopped 30 shots to pick up his 16th win. Bob’s other numbers certainly aren’t anything to write home about, but he is tied for ninth with Carey Price in that category.
Acciari collected a turnover that deflected off Vincent Trocheck’s skate blade and beat Thatcher Demko short side on Florida’s first shot a minute into the action and Pysyk added on 2:01 later with a nice redirect of Colton Scevior’s pretty cross-ice pass after Brian Boyle sprung those two on a rush up ice.
After Brock Boeser’s deflection goal countered Pysyk’s marker, Evgenii Dadonov finished off a two-on-on break with Aleksander Barkov to collect his 19th of the season to put the Cats back up by two with 1:07 left in the opening frame. Jonathan Huberdeau sent his linemates off to the races to collect the secondary assist.
Huberdeau would later work some magic with a ridiculous, jaw-dropping deke and pass move that set up Mike Hoffman’s one-timer 3:40 into the second and left Vancouver defenseman Christopher Tanev as road kill on the BB&T Center ice. Keith Yandle picked up the second assist on Hoffman’s power-play goal.
The two assists moved Huberdeau within one point of tying Olli Jokinen for the most in franchise history (419).
Acciari would bag his second of the night at the 6:55 mark of the third period. The former Bruin headed to the front of the net to tip Aaron Ekblad’s slap shot from the point through Demko’s pads after Brett Connolly passed back to the defenseman following a Trocheck face-off win.
Tyler Motte finished off a give-and-go with Jay Beagle after Tim Schaller got a piece of Mike Matheson’s ill-advised pass up the middle (that probably would’ve been picked off had Schaller not touched it) to complete the scoring with 7:46 left in the game, but the Canucks would get no closer as Bobrovsky snuffed out the final six shots.
The Panthers delivered a solid bounce back performance after the disappointing loss to the Arizona Coyotes two days prior. They came out strong, scored early, ended up out-shooting the Canucks 49-32 and didn’t make Vancouver’s backup goalie look all-world. After posting the win, the Cats got a late-night assist from the San Jose Sharks, who took out Columbus, leaving the Panthers a point ahead of the Blue Jackets and one behind the idle Philadelphia Flyers, with both Florida and Philadelphia having played 44 games. The Panthers are also just a single point behind Carolina, but James Reimer and the Hurricanes have a game in hand.
The Cats get a couple days off to rest before facing the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday in game three of the four-game homestand.
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Odds & Ehnds
- Noel Acciari came to Florida with 18 goals in 180 career NHL games. He already has 17 this season, including 12 in the past 12 games. Wow... just wow.
- Aleksander Barkov’s assist on Evgenii Dadonov’s goal ended a five-game point drought. Barkov failed to convert on a shorthanded breakaway making him goalless in six.
- Speaking of Dadonov, the Russian has collected five goals in the last five games. The only team to keep him off the board in that span was Arizona.
- The Panthers 49 shots on goal were one shy of its season high of 50 set against the Carolina Hurricanes back on October 8, in the third game of the season.
- Vancouver’s recent power play struggles continued as they went 0 for 3 and generated a total of six shots with the man advantage.
- In the milestone department, Brian Boyle’s assist on Mark Pysyk’s goal was the 100th of his career.
- Not mentioned above, Tyler Myers and Elias Pettersson drew the helpers on Brock Boeser’s 14th goal. Boeser has put up 17 points in his last 17 games.
- For more on Florida’s win that split the season series, head on over to Nucks Misconduct.