February 15, 2018 / 6:04 AM / in a month

4 first-period goals prove enough for Panthers

Nick Bjugstad notched a goal and an assist in Florida’s four-goal first period, and James Reimer stopped 34 shots as the visiting Panthers edged the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 at Rogers Arena.

Florida improved to 2-0-0 on its five-game road trip and edged within seven points of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Panthers also have three games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently occupy the second wild-card position.

Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom allowed all four Florida goals on 14 shots in the first period. He was hooked at the first intermission for Anders Nilsson, who stopped all 20 shots he faced.

The first period was defense optional, the teams combining for six goals on 30 shots. Vancouver got the scoring started just 37 seconds into the match as defenseman Michael Del Zotto skated unfettered into the slot and zipped a wrister off Reimer and defenseman Aaron Ekblad and into the net for his fifth goal.

Florida tied it at 7:36 when Evgenii Dadonov got free on a breakaway, courtesy of Bjugstad’s pass. Dadonov partially fanned on his wrister, but it trickled through Markstrom’s legs for his third goal in two games and 14th of the season.

Bo Horvat put the Canucks ahead 34 seconds later by capitalizing on a Panthers giveaway behind the net, ramming in a shot from the left post for his 14th marker of the season.

It took Florida less than five minutes to equalize on a power play. Jamie McGinn got his eighth goal on a fluky play, as Ekblad’s pass from behind the net fluttered into the air, struck McGinn’s shoulder and flopped into the net.

Alexander Petrovic’s first goal since 2016 gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead at 17:25. Jared McCann stole the puck in the corner and fed Petrovic in the high slot, and he wired a wrister past Markstrom.

Bjugstad capped the outburst when his wrister from the left circle squirted through Markstrom’s pads at 18:36 for his 10th goal.

The second period was much more restrained. Vancouver got the only goal, rookie Brock Boeser potting his 27th during a five-on-three advantage at 13:16 with a classic snipe from between the circles.

—Field Level Media

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