Panthers 5, Canucks 2: Fast attacking offense powers the best team in the NHL

Here’s what we learned when the Canucks, who outshot the Panthers 44-26, head to Tampa Bay for a test Thursday.

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Short shifts. Roll four lines. Survive the first period.

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That was the predictable and prudent plan for the well-rested and battle-untested Vancouver Canucks Tuesday in Sunrise, Florida.

After all, they hadn’t played since Jan. 1 in Seattle. A couple of game postponements followed and also six players in the COVID-19 protocol. Five practices had to serve as preparation to face the vaunted Florida Panthers to open a demanding five-game day.

As much as the Canucks said all the right things before the puck dropped, they knew they were in a tough spot.

The best team in the National Hockey League has an embarrassment of riches with its second-ranked offense. The Panthers proved it by scoring two first-period goals in 66 seconds and a pair in 26 seconds of the second period. It would be the catalyst for a 5-2 win and victory in 19 of 22 home games.

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“They have a great job with the stick in front of the net and they get it all,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They were good goals. You cannot give them opportunities. Some teams need a lot to score and Florida is not one of them. They can score a package in a short period of time and that’s what they did today.

“Not everything is bad when you lose, but there are things we can take out that we didn’t do well. This is bringing us down a bit. We had to come out of this with something positive, we had to win the third period and stay positive among ourselves because adversity reveals character. “

Here’s what we learned when the Canucks, who outshot the Panthers 44-26, head to Tampa Bay for a test Thursday:


Florida Panthers center Anton Lundell (15) dives for the puck against Vancouver Canucks defender Tyler Myers (57) during the first period at FLA Live Arena.
Florida Panthers center Anton Lundell (15) dives for the puck against Vancouver Canucks defender Tyler Myers (57) during the first period at FLA Live Arena. Photo by Sam Navarro /USA TODAY Sports

SOME LIFE, THEN SOME DELAY

The Canucks expected to play on adrenaline and then quickly lose it as fatigue set in.

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Having the ability to find your legs in the opening period was a credit to some tough practices and conditioning exercises last week. He allowed a significant second-period drive in which they could have tied even after giving up 2-0 and 2-1 leads.

First, it was Tyler Motte running down the wing and getting thwarted on a backhand to right move. It was followed by the steal of Brock Boeser on an ice crossing by JT Miller.

The Panthers would then respond quickly.

Jonathan Huberdeau, who had five shots and eight attempts, finished off a neat passing sequence with his blocked power play shot that appeared to go to the post and inside. It would have been his 14th point (4-10) in his last six outings, but the goal was awarded to Sam Reinhart. Maxim Mamin then came out of the corner 26 seconds later and threw a backhand past Demko’s shoulder, prompting Boudreau to call for a timeout.

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“Those hurt,” Canucks winger Jason Dickinson said. “We were on it and we started the second period very well and then we gave up on the PK. It was a great shot, but he (Huberdeau) got into the slot for a great look. We can’t give that up. And when they score, you have to come back with a big change.

“And then sure enough, they came back with a better one and scored again. He’s a backbreaker.”

Hughes kept hitting the post and Miller was denied in the crease when his league-best nine-game point streak came to an end. A run by Aleksander Barkov would bury any hope of a comeback. He turned around and sped away from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who could have been asked for a penalty hook while chasing him, then fired a shot to end the game.

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“It’s no secret what his game is,” added Dickinson. “They are a high transition offense and they capitalize when they have opportunities. You have to minimize turnovers and breakdowns and try to stifle their offense by playing a stingy defense.

The Canucks were quietly heading into the night in the third period when a struggling Elias Pettersson fired a shot before a bouncing puck bounced off Juho Lammikko’s post.


Playing in her 100th NHL game, Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks stumbles during the second period against the Florida Panthers at FLALive Arena on January 11, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida.
Playing in her 100th NHL game, Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks stumbles during the second period against the Florida Panthers at FLALive Arena on January 11, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennet /fake images

DIGGING A HOLE EARLY

The Panthers are now 13-1-1 when they lead after the first period and the Canucks knew they couldn’t drop an early goal or dig a two-goal hole. They did both and had little to do with Demko.

While Boudreau mixed up his lines to keep preferred tandems in place and hopefully provide a better balance of scoring, he flopped early.

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After Sam Bennett knocked down Demko and slid the puck through an open net, it was Aaron Ekblad who threw a rolling puck on the blue line. He found the short end because Ekman-Larsson protected Demko as he tried to get out.

And just 66 seconds later, a harmless-looking spot shot from Radko Gudas was heading way wide when Reinhart reached out with his stick and redirected it home.

The Canucks then made a game when Dickinson’s shot from an acute angle slipped under the pad of goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky. It came after Gustav Forsling, a former Canucks-owned liner, called one by mail.

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NEXT GAME

Thursday

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vancouver Canucks

4 pm, Amalie Arena, TV: pacific sportsnet, Radio: sports net 650

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