Recap: Panthers ride fast start to 4-3 win over Canucks

Reimer stops 34, Bjugstad bags eventual game-winner

After scoring four goals in the third period to get by Edmonton on Monday, the Florida Panthers rang up four more in the opening twenty minutes to best the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at Rogers Arena.

The Panthers found themselves down a goal after just 37 seconds. After Evgenii Dadonov failed to finish on an even earlier opportunity, the Canucks worked the puck free in the Florida zone with Bo Horvat finding Michael Del Zotto in the slot. Reimer got his glove on Del Zotto’s shot, but Aaron Ekblad knocked the rebound out the air and into his own net. The second assist on the play went to Sven Baertschi.

Dadonov would solve Markstrom 6:59 later to tie the score. Aleksander Barkov won a defensive zone draw and the puck came to Nick Bjugstad, who sprung Dadonov free at the Vancouver blue line. Dadonov fended off Alexander Edler and slipped the puck between Markstrom’s legs for his third goal in the last two games.

Baertschi picked up his second helper of the period when he forced Barkov into a turnover beneath his own goal line. The puck bounced out in front to Horvat and he was able to shovel it by James Reimer to put the Canucks back on top at the 8:10 mark.

The Cats countered with a fortuitous power-play goal at 13:01 to even the game at two apiece. Denis Malgin took a shot from the high slot that went above the net and caromed off the glass to Ekblad, who was camped out by the cage. Ekblad chipped the puck up into the crease and off Jamie McGinn’s shoulder to turn on the red light.

Florida forged ahead with 2:35 left in the opening frame. Jared McCann stole the puck from Erik Gudbranson deep in the Vancouver end, gloved it down and squeaked a pass through legs back to a wide-open Alex Petrovic and the defenseman zipped a hard wrister by Markstrom for his first goal of the season.

Yet another Barkov faceoff win 1:11 later, this time in the offensive zone, gave the Panthers a two-goal lead as Bjugstad quickly fired the puck from the the top of the left circle past Markstrom for the eventual game-winning goal, his first GWG of the campaign.

The Canucks quickly took advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity to net the game’s final goal at 13:16 of the second period. Horvat beat Colton Sceviour on a draw and Daniel Sedin tapped the puck to Brock Boeser, who ripped it through Reimer. Reimer got a piece of the puck, but not enough to keep it out of the net. The goal came two seconds after Derek MacKenzie (tripping) joined Mark Pysyk in the penalty box.

Reimer stopped all eight shots in the third to make the lead stand up, including this dandy left pad save on Baertschi with 4:50 left in the tilt. The goaltender turned aside 34 shots to win his second straight start since returning from a lower-body injury.

The Panthers were sloppy defensively in the first, but offset that with a three goals in a 5:35 span to grab the lead, and then limited the Canucks to 21 shots on goal over the final two periods to post their sixth win in the last seven games. Yes, they surrendered the power-play maker to Boeser that made it a one-goal game, but the penalty killers came up big with five kills. This is the first time this season that the club has two more wins than regulation losses. Florida moved back within seven points of Carolina, with three games in hand. The Cats will look for a fifth straight road win in Calgary on Saturday, with Roberto Luongo expected to get the start.

Full Highlights (courtesy of

Odds & Ends

  • Nick Bjugstad’s game-winner snapped a 19-game goalless drought. Bjugstad hit double-digits goals for the fourth time in his career and doubled his point total from last season in the same amount (54) of games played.
  • Jamie McGinn’s goal was the 200th point of his NHL career and came in his 571st big-league game.
  • Anders Nilsson relieved at the start of the second period and kept the Panthers from adding to the lead. Nilsson finished with 20 saves after Jacob Markstrom departed with 10 stops on 14 shots.
  • Aleksander Barkov’s two-assist performance allowed him to hit the 50-point plateau for the third straight season.
  • Vancouver’s Brock Boeser leads all rookies with 27 goals.
  • Radim Vrbata returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for six games. Vrbata registered one shot on goal and posted a +1 rating.
  • Nucks Misconduct has the other side of Florida’s win, which completed a series sweep./