Panthers take control early, hold on to beat Canucks

BY foxsports • December 14, 2016

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Aleksander Barkov has put an extended scoring slump behind him, and that finally helped the Florida Panthers end a losing streak Saturday night.

Barkov had a goal and an assist and has 11 points in his last 12 games, including four goals in the past six. Earlier in the season, Barkov slogged through a drought of 21 games without a goal.

Those recent points hadn't done the Panthers much good, though, until the Canucks came to town. Aaron Ekblad gave Florida a three-goal lead early in the third period and the Panthers held on for a 4-2 victory over Vancouver to end a five-game slide.

"I couldn't score in (21) games, and then I scored finally. And now I'm feeling more confident," Barkov said.

The Panthers won their first home game under interim coach Tom Rowe. The win was the Panthers' first in regulation since a victory over Ottawa on Nov. 19, a span of 11 games.

"I love that. A bunch of teams in our division lost so we gain ground on everybody in front of us," Rowe said.

Vincent Trocheck scored his first goal in 18 games. Derek MacKenzie also scored for Florida. Roberto Luongo made 37 saves, and Jaromir Jagr recorded an assist and now has 1,883 points, four behind Mark Messier for second on the NHL career list.

The play of Barkov seemed to lift the Panthers offense, which hadn't scored four goals since the Ottawa game.

"He's playing the way we expected him to," Rowe said. "He's being Barkov. It removes a lot of pressure from other guys."

Stress had been building for the Panthers. They're still reeling from an unexpected coaching change, with Rowe replacing Gerard Gallant in late November.

"It feels like they're all must wins," Luongo said. "Everybody's bunched up together. You want to look at it one game at a time."

Daniel Sedin and Jack Skille scored in the third period for the Canucks. Jacob Markstrom stopped 38 shots.

With the Panthers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Trocheck scored an empty-net goal with 47.1 seconds left.

Trailing 3-0, the Canucks scored twice in the third.

Skille took a shot from low in the right circle that got past Luongo on the glove side at 8:06 of the third. Skille has three goals in two games.

A power-play goal by Sedin made the score 3-2. Troy Stecher shot from the point, and the puck hit Sedin's stick and was redirected into the net at 11:45 of the third.

"We had our chances for sure," Sedin said. "Luongo was good. But it's still too late. Chasing being down 3-0, it's tough. We made it tough on ourselves."

The Panthers had stretched their lead to 3-0 at 1:05 of the third. Jagr took a shot from above the right circle that was blocked by Markstrom. Ekblad backhanded the rebound and beat Markstrom on the stick side.

Barkov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 2:22 in. Seth Griffith passed from behind the net to Barkov in front, who poked the puck past Markstrom. Barkov has points in 11 of his past 12 games.

The Panthers went ahead 2-0 on MacKenzie's goal. MacKenzie corralled a bouncing puck and pushed it into the net at 9:35 of the second. Paul Thompson recorded his first NHL point with the first assist on the goal.

Canucks goalie Ryan Miller could return Sunday against the Capitals. He left Thursday's game with a lower-body injury.

"I won't know yet. Ryan will probably try to take some shots in the morning. We'll get a read on him in the morning and then we'll make our decision," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said.

NOTES: Canucks D Erik Gudbranson, who was the first-round pick by the Panthers in 2010 and played for the Panthers for five years, received a video tribute and an ovation from the crowd in his first return since being traded to Vancouver last June. "I definitely didn't expect that from them. I really appreciate it," Gudbranson said. ... G Thatcher Demko was called up from Utica of the AHL because Miller's injury. ... C Jayson Megna was born in nearby Fort Lauderdale. ... Panthers D Keith Yandle played his 580th consecutive game, tying Johnny Wilson for the ninth longest stretch in the NHL. ... Jim Craig, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won a gold medal, attended the game.


Canucks: Visit the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Panthers: Visit the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

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