Eriksson, Canucks deal Panthers 6th straight loss, 5-1
“We’ve got some bad blood with them,” Vancouver defenseman Ben Hutton said. “Obviously, everyone knows that.”
When the teams last met in October, Vancouver’s star rookie Elias Pettersson was the victim of a controversial hit by Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson. No penalty was called and Pettersson ended up missing two weeks with a concussion.
The Canucks tried to outwork Florida, and Loui Eriksson had a goal and two assists as Vancouver defeated the Panthers 5-1.
“We wanted to come out and play hard,” said Hutton, who scored the eventual game-winner. “Play within the rules, but play hard. And make sure everyone knows that you can’t really mess with one of us.”
Matheson — who was handed a two-game suspension by the league for the hit — was challenged to drop the gloves several times, but didn’t give in. Every time he touched the puck, loud boos rained down from the Vancouver crowd.
Vancouver defenseman Erik Gudbranson said his team was good about not crossing the line with Matheson.
“You don’t want to do anything stupid in a one-goal game,” he said. “Guys tried, tried early. But at a certain point, if he’s not willing to do it, that’s on him. We’ve got to go and win two points.”
Instead, Gudbranson went head-to-head with Florida’s Michael Healy, exchanging blows for nearly a minute near the end of the first period.
“Hockey’s still hockey. The blood boils,” Gudbranson said. “And it was a good showing by our team.”
Canucks coach Travis Green said he didn’t encourage his team to bring extra intensity to Sunday’s matchup.
“I never talked about it once and I don’t know if they talked about it as a team, but I thought they responded exactly how you should — won the game,” he said. “No one did anything cheap or dirty and that’s it, end of story.”
Loui Eriksson had a goal and two assists for Vancouver.
Midway through the second period, the left-winger picked off a pass from Mike Hoffman at the Panthers’ blue line and drove into the offensive zone. Eriksson finished with a wrist shot that beat Florida netminder Roberto Luongo.
He admitted that scoring has been tough lately, so finding the net was a relief.
“It hasn’t come easy. So all you can do is just work hard and just keep working. And things will turn around,” Eriksson said. “It was definitely nice to score that one tonight. And now on to the next one.”
Frank Vatrano scored for the Panthers. Florida has lost six games in a row.
“We had some guys, especially some of our big guys, have very average if not below-average games and you can’t win hockey games that way,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 23 shots, and Luongo had 31 saves.
Despite playing for the visitors, the former Canucks netminder received raucous cheers of “Louuuu!” from the crowd every time he stopped the puck.
“It’s always nice to come back here and fans are great,” said Luongo, who played eight seasons with the Canucks before he was traded to Florida in 2014. “It’s always special; it will always hold a special place in my heart.”
NOTES: Pettersson missed the rematch with a knee injury he suffered in a game against Montreal earlier this month. … Panthers center Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 16 games with an upper-body injury.
Panthers: At Montreal on Tuesday.
Canucks: Host Edmonton on Wednesday.