Florida put itself in an early hole by coming out unprepared. After taking a couple of icing calls, the Cats failed to clear their zone and Jake Studnicka blooped a long shot over an unready Sergei Bobrovksky just a 1:35 in with the lone assist going to Ilya Mikheyev.
The Panthers struck back at 8:58 when Colin White fed Gustav Forsling at the left point. A dangling Forsling waited for an opening and then sent a shot towards the net that struck Givani Smith and Ryan Lomberg was able to easily cash in on the fortuitous rebound.
Despite totaling 15 shots, the Panthers couldn’t solve Spencer Martin again in the first and fell behind a second time 39 seconds into the middle frame when Tyler Myers shot from the blue line eluded a screened Bobrovsky, who didn’t even flinch. Assists went Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser for their work along the right boards. Myers ended up leading all skaters with seven shots on goal.
A Canucks turnover allowed Nick Cousins to drop the puck back to Josh Mahura at the left point and his shot was deflected home by a wide-open Eric Staal to re-tie the tilt a 1:07 later.
Florida forged ahead with a power-play goal at the 3:06 mark. After taking a pass from Aleksander Barkov and losing control for a second, Matthew Tkachuk regathered and centered out high to Brandon Montour. Montour one-touched the puck over to Aaron Ekblad in the left circle and he cranked a one-timer by Martin.
The Panthers would run a similar play to bag another power-play goal at 9:51. This time Martin was able to fend off Ekblad’s one-timer, only to see Sam Reinhart reach out to collect the rebound and send a no-look backhand pass over to Barkov, who fired the puck along the ice into the yawning net.
Florida has had trouble in the third period this season and last night weas no exception. The Canucks out-shot them 15-5 and pulled within a goal with 9:58 remaining and Eric Staal sitting in the sin bin.
Connor Garland raced to a dump-in and rounded the net causing Bobrovsky to lose his stick. After taking a pass from Garland, Pettersson played catch with Quinn Hughes at the blue line before taking a slapper that Bo Horvat tipped in.
Bobrovksy, who finished with 35 saves, came up big in the closing seconds to guide his inconsistent club to a much-needed win.
The two points for Florida coupled with Pittsburgh’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes left the Cats five points out of a playoff spot at the conclusion of last night’s action. They now trail the new wild card two squad, the New York Islanders with both teams having played 44 games.
Orcas & Minnows
- Matthew Tkachuk extended his point streak to six games - a Florida high this season. Tkachuk has amassed five goals and five assists during that span.
- Speaking of point streaks, Elias Pettersson is up to eight games after collecting a pair of assists against the Cats.
- First Star Aaron Ekblad was the only Panther to post a multipoint game while playing a team-high 25:04. Ekblad finished the tilt with four shots on goal and one hit.
- Bo Horvat became the first Canuck and fifth NHLer to hit the 30-goal plateau. The milestone goal was the 200th of his career and put him one short of matching his career-high for a single season.
- The Panthers 2 for 3 performance on the power play was key. Florida took and extended the lead during the second period with man-advantage markers and allowed them to withstand Horvat’s third period tally.
- Spencer Martin stopped 31 shots for the Canucks, who are just 4-14-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
- The Cats completed the season series sweep. Read more about it at Nucks Misconduct.