Nucks Vs. Cats: A History Lesson
How did Florida handle the Canucks throughout the early years?
Florida has earned an 8-9-3 record all-time against the Canucks, with six ties. The last time they played each other, on January 8th, the Panthers earned a 3-1 victory at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Last year, the frequent trade partners swapped road shootout victories in going 1-0-1 against each other.
The 24-20-10 Panthers first played the 28-26-2 Canucks on February 13th, 1994, and earned a 2-1 win on goals from Bob Kudelski and Brian Benning. Benning assisted on Kudelski's goal, Andrei Lomakin assisted on Benning's, and Greg Hawgood assisted on both in front of 33 saves from Mark Fitzpatrick. Kirk McLean took the home loss for Vancouver, stopping just 13 shots in the effort. Dana Murzyn was the only Canuck to light the lamp. * Box Score
Three and a half weeks later, the two again skated to a 2-1 Florida (26-28-10) victory, this time at the Miami Arena. Lomakin and Scott Mellanby beat McLean, who stopped 22 shots, while Fitzy stopped 34-of-35 Vancouver (32-29-3) shot attempts in the win. Stu Barnes, Benning, and Gord Murphy earned assists for the Cats on the night. Jyrki Lumme earned Vancouver's marker. * Box Score
The Panthers went on to secure the most successful first-year record of the expansion era, finishing 33-34-17 on the season. Florida would see nearly half of the next season cancelled due to the first of three (!) work stoppages over the first 19 years of their existence. When play resumed, they posted a 20-22-6 record, still not good enough for the playoffs. They did not face the Canucks, or any Western Conference team for the lockout-shortened circuit.
In 1995-96, Vancouver (5-7-5) tasted their first ever success against the Cats (14-4-0) in the first meeting of the season between the two, earning a 2-2 tie on November 16th in Miami. Scott Mellanby scored both of Florida's goals, while Robert Svehla and Jason Woolley each assisted twice. John Vanbiesbrouck made 25 saves in the tie, matching McLean's night. Kirk stopped 36 shots, behind markers from Trevor Linden and Alexander Mogilny. * Box Score
On January 3rd, the Panthers (25-10-2) had their first ever "bad" night against Vancouver (12-15-10). Johan Garpenlov scored twice for Florida, but that was all the offense the Cats could muster against seven markers from the home team. Mogilny had two goals and two assists, while Linden, Lumme, and Leif Rohlin each had a goal and two assists. Esa Tikkanen scored twice as Corey Hirsch stopped 23-of-25 Florida shots in the win. Vanbiesbrouck allowed five goals on 14 shots before he was replaced by Fitzpatrick, who stopped 11-of-13 in relief. * Box Score
Florida went on to put up a 41-31-10 record that season, earning the fourth seed in the East and series victories against the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins in claiming the Eastern Conference Championship.
In 1996-97, Florida (22-11-9) played the Canucks (20-21-1) in Vancouver on January 14th. Defenseman Svehla scored twice, while David Nemirovsky and Rob Niedermayer also lit the lamp and seven other players earned an assist each in front of 30 saves on 34 tries between Fitzpatrick (21-of-24) and Vanbiesbrouck (nine-of-10). The Canucks enjoyed success on goals from Mike Sillinger (2), Mogilny and Tikkanen and 24 saves from McLean in the eventual 4-4 tie. * Box Score
On March 13th, the Cats (30-23-15) defeated the Canucks (28-36-4), 5-4 in Miami. Ray Sheppard earned a hat trick for the Panthers on the night, while Radek Dvorak dished out three helpers. Mellanby and Chris Wells also lit the lamp for Florida, and Svehla and Steve Washburn each earned two assists. Vanbiesbrouck made 20 saves. Hirsch, like Beezer, faced 24 shots, but only made 19 stops for the loss. Lonny Bohonos (two goals), Markus Naslund (one goal, one assist), Martin Gelinas (one goal, one assist), Sillinger (two assists), and Adrian Aucoin (two assists) had multiple point games for Vancouver. * Box Score
Florida returned to the playoffs with a 35-28-19 record, again securing the fourth seed in the East, but they did not get out of the first round.
On January 10th, 1998, the Panthers (15-21-9) visited Vancouver (12-25-7) and skated to a 2-2 tie, backstopped by a 19-save performance from Vanbiesbrouck. Dvorak and Niedermayer provided the offense for the Cats, while Sheppard, Svehla, Washburn and Ray Whitney earned helpers. Svehla also contributed in the form of fisticuffs, with a fighting major (and the instigator penalty) against Donald Brashear. Sean Burke made 24 saves for the Canucks, while Sillinger and Mogilny lit the lamp. * Box Score
The Canucks (20-36-11) returned to Miami Arena on March 17th that season, and sent the Panthers (18-35-12) to their 10th straight loss, 4-2. Dave Gagner and Viktor Kozlov each scored for the new-look Cats, while Kevin Weekes made 25 saves on 28 shots in the loss. Peter Zezel scored twice for the Canucks, and future Panthers Pavel Bure and Bryan McCabe earned two assists each. * Box Score
Florida went on to finish that season with a then-franchise-worst 24-43-15 record. Over the first quarter of the Panthers' existence (by the NHL calendar, anyway), they collected a 3-2-3 record against the Canucks, and a 153-158-67 overall mark.