Panthers take fourth straight with wild 5-4 shootout win over Canucks

Jaromir Jagr moves past Marcel Dionne with 732nd goal

After throwing a defensive blanket over their last three opponents, the Florida Panthers were in a much more giving mood upon returning to the BB&T Center on Sunday to open the annual Holiday Homestand. Fortunately, Aleksander Barkov rescued the Cats with another glorious shootout winner to give his club a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks struck first on Jannik Hansen's redirection of an Alex Biega shot at 6:32 of the opening period. Jared McCann beat Erik Gudbranson to a puck behind the net and fed Biega for the initial drive that Hansen tipped by Roberto Luongo.

Shawn Thornton would even the game 5:54 later with his first of the season. Brian Campbell made a nice hold at line and found Rocco Grimaldi, who took a shot that was knocked down in front. Connor Brickley collected the puck and quickly passed to Thornton who hammered it past Ryan Miller.

Vancouver regained the lead at the 15:29 mark when Sven Baertschi slipped Willie Mitchell and converted a nice pass from Bo Horvat. Defenseman Matt Bartkowski, a former Florida draftee, picked up the secondary assist on Baertschi's fourth.

The final tally of a busy opening twenty minutes would be a historic one. After Jonathan Huberdeau dug the puck free on the boards, Barkov would send a cross-ice fed to a waiting Jaromir Jagr and he would knock up it home for his 732nd career goal, breaking a fourth place tie with Marcel Dionne on the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list. The marker came at 19:48 with the Cats on a power play.

The Panthers took their first lead of the game on an unassisted Vincent Trocheck goal at 5:38 of the second period. A rushing Trocheck briefly lost the puck after crossing the blue line, but regained it in stride before firing it by Miller for his tenth of the campaign.

Vancouver would counter just 31 seconds later to tie the tilt at threes. Adam Cracknell pounced on a Corban Knight turnover and found an open Derek Dorsett, who was able to stuff his own rebound by Luongo.

Aaron Ekblad would come up with Florida's second power-play goal at 8:31 to put the Cats back on top. Ekblad would easily dent the twine after taking a gorgeous backhand pass from Jagr. Huberdeau picked up his second helper of the afternoon, giving him a team-leading seventeen.

The Canucks would score off a pretty 2--on-1 with Daniel Sedin putting the puck into an empty net after working a crisp give-and-go with Hansen with 5:20 left in the middle stanza.

After all the fireworks in the first forty minutes of action, the third period belonged to the goaltenders with Luongo stopping eleven shots and Miller turning aside eight to send the game to overtime.

The Cats put on a clinic in the extra session, forcing Miller to come up with eight more saves, including two from in-close on Jagr and a dandy with the glove on Jussi Jokinen. Ekblad came the closest to ending it, but his blast from the right circle rang off the post.

In the shootout, Brandon Pirri and McCann would trade goals in the first round. Pirri's fancy moves sent an injured Miller to the bench, forcing former Panthers prospect Jacob Markstrom to come on in relief. Markstrom would deny Huberdeau's sloppy effort and Luongo would foil Radim Vrbata with the glove in round two. Barkov scored the eventual-winner with a beautiful skate-to-stick move, throwing a backhand by a helpless Markstrom. Luongo made the goal stand up with another glove save, this time on Baertschi, to give Florida the bonus point.

Florida's fourth straight win moved them past the Ottawa Senators, who are next up on the schedule, and into the first wildcard slot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers now have 40 points and are just three out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Odds & Sods

The surging Panthers have won 10 of their last 13 games. Not the best of efforts, but it was nice to see the Cats find a way to pull out the win and get the six-game homestand off to a good start.

Florida's top line created all kinds of chances and combined for 12 of the team's 42 shots. Jagr and Barkov each had five and Huberdeau contributed two. Once again, Huberdeau had some quality looks, but his troubles finding the back of the net continue.

The Cats are now 12-0-1 when scoring at least three goals in a game.

Roberto Luongo finished the game with 30 stops in regulation and overtime. Kudos to the veteran keeper for shaking off the first two periods and coming up big with the game on the line.

The Panthers' power play remained hot at home, with the unit going a tidy 2 for 4. The PK also came through, rebuffing both of Vancouver's man-advantage attempts.

Erik Gudbranson, Dylan Olsen, Logan Shaw and Brandon Pirri all clocked out with -3 ratings. Corban Knight went -2, but continued to excel at face-offs, winning 9-of-15.

Rocco Grimaldi's assist on Shawn Thornton's goal was the first of his young NHL career. It took Thornton 26 shots to bag his first of 2015-16.

A shout out to an unheralded member of the opposition: defenseman Alexander Edler dished out a game-high six hits, had four shots on goal, blocked two shots and finished +1. That's pretty strong stuff.

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Highlights (courtesy of