Ryan Miller's incredible shutout streak came to an end in the final minutes of Monday's game against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers, but the Canucks scored twice in the first period to put themselves in good position as Vancouver hung on for a 2-1 win.
Radim Vrbata scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season while Bo Horvat netted his third as the Canucks scored twice on their first six shots of the night against Luongo.
While he didn't get his third straight shutout, Ryan Miller delivered another masterful performance between the pipes, stopping 23 shots, including 10 in the 3rd period when the Canucks managed only one.
The win was the third straight for Vancouver in what is turning out to be a very successful road trip despite a sloppy start last week in Nashville.
The Canucks opened the scoring early with a one-timer from Radim Vrbata, who took a beautiful saucer pass across the slot from Daniel Sedin. The chemistry between the Sedins and Vrbata on this first line can be a thing of beauty, and that chemistry had the Canucks out front early. When the Canucks have scored first this year, they've gone on to win 82 percent of the time.
Vancouver added to their lead midway through the period when Bo Horvat tipped in the puck past Luongo with a great second effort. Dan Hamhuis sent the puck up ice and after a deflection, Bo Horvat and Derek Dorsett broke out in a 2-on-1 rush. Horvat took a shot on net, which trickled past Luongo just enough for Horvat to hustle in and knock in the goal. After scoring just once against Luongo earlier this month, the Canucks had scored two goals on six shots.
When Bo Horvat does a spinorama, the puck spins rather than Horvat.— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) January 20, 2015
The Canucks had a pair of power plays during the opening period, but only managed two shots during the power plays, both shots coming on the second power play.
During Florida's first power play of the night, Jannik Hansen almost came away with another breakaway goal, but Luongo was able to come up with the save. Had Hansen beat Luongo, it likely would've been the end of the night for the former Canucks goaltender. The Canucks came up with another breakaway when they were shorthanded late in the period when Chris Higgins broke free. Luongo came up with a nifty glove save to keep it a 2-0 game. At this point, the Canucks were outshooting the Panthers 2-0 during Florida's power plays. And you thought the Canucks had issues on the man advantage.
This Panthers power play is some shade of awful— Jason Botchford (@botchford) January 20, 2015
After his sloppy start, Roberto Luongo continued to come up with big saves, including an early rebound opportunity for Alex Burrows off an original shot by Chris Higgins. It seemed as if Higgins couldn't catch a break against Luongo despite getting several good looks on his old teammate.
After Dan Hamhuis broke his stick on a shot attempt, the Panthers broke out on a 2-on-1 rush for their best scoring chance of the night to that point. Lucas Sbisa laid down on the ice at the perfect moment to break up the any chance at a goal for Brandon Pirri, preserving Miller's shutout streak.
The game's first major scrum came soon after the play as Jannik Hansen went after Jonathan Huberdeau, knocking him down to the ice. Brad Boyes came in to knock down Hansen, and the dogpile began. After it was all said and done, Hansen took a double minor while Huberdeau sat out for slashing, putting Florida on the power play. Boyes was not penalized for hitting Hansen.
BATTLE ROYALE pic.twitter.com/FAMsb4OUAG— Canucks Misconduct (@nucksmisconduct) January 20, 2015
During Florida's power play, Chris Higgins had another chance at a shorthanded goal, but Luongo kicked the shot away, denying Higgins yet again.
At the end of the power play, Radim Vrbata, serving the second half of Hansen's penalty, broke free out of the box for a breakaway opportunity, but couldn't get a clean stick on the puck.
After another scrum, the Canucks had their third power play opportunity of the night. Vancouver had a good rebound opportunity, but not much else as they came up empty with an extra man again as the Canucks took their 2-0 lead into the final intermission.
Frustrations seemed to be boiling over for the Panthers as the game went on as Jussi Jokinen took a late run at Daniel Sedin along the boards as time expired. Obviously, Daniel was none too pleased with Jokinen.
Panthers can sense they are not good enough tonight, going for the dirty play instead. I mean, Jokinen hitting D Sedin at 0:00 ? #IMeanCaman— vancitydan (@vancitydan) January 20, 2015
During an earlier scrum in the period, Derek Dorsett lost a glove. It was returned by the Panthers, but it had an extra surprise in it waiting for Dorsett.
The Panthers went back to the power play. After an initial shot on net by Brian Campbell, the puck was loose in front of the net. Brandon Pirri had a great chance to break Miller's shutout streak, but Alex Edler was in the right place at the right time as his skate deflected the puck just enough for Miller to cover up for the whistle.
Later in the power play, 27 had another great scoring chance for the Panthers, but Miller was able to come up with another big save as the Canucks killed off Florida's power play for the fourth time of the night.
Midway through the period, the Canucks were being outshot 6-1 as they took a more conservative approach to preserve the lead. But when you have a goaltender playing the way Miller has lately, that strategy works perfectly fine.
With 2:30 left to play, Ryan Miller's shutout streak would come to an end as the Panthers pulled Luongo out of the net. After the Panthers won a face-off draw, Brandon Pirri blasted a shot past Miller so quick, Miller never even saw it coming. You could see a clear look of disappointment on Miller's face after not allowing a goal for over 200 minutes, but the Canucks still maintained a 2-1 lead thanks to their early scoring.
I had a really funny three shutout in a row joke lined up. THANKS A LOT RYAN.— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 20, 2015
The Canucks had an empty net for the rest of the way, but the Panthers were able to tighten up on defense to prevent a goal that would ice the game. Even Chris Higgins had a look at the empty net, only to have his shot blocked.
Man, what did Chris Higgins do to piss off the hockey gods?— Canucks Hockey Blog (@canuckshockey) January 20, 2015
The Canucks would survive Florida's late attack just long enough to hang on for the 2-1 win.
The Canucks wrap up their road trip tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their final game before the All-Star break. We'll see if Willie Desjardins decides to stick with the hot hand and go with Ryan Miller for his second consecutive back-to-back start on the road trip. Considering he'll get a week of rest after the game, you have to imagine Miller will be ready and willing to go if his number is called.