Thursday night was all about Roberto Luongo and his return to Rogers Arena. That will be the story anytime he returns to Vancouver, but tonight was extra special as it was the first time he had been back since his dramatic exit following last year's Winter Classic fiasco.
Luongo made 32 saves on the night for his 16th win of the year as the Panthers defeated the Canucks 3-1.
Johnathan Huberdeau led the Panthers offensively with two goals and an assist, while Daniel Sedin scored Vancouver's only goal on the night.
After getting a few good shots off against Luongo during their first power play just 29 seconds into the game, Daniel Sedin opened the scoring for the Canucks. After Willie Mitchell mishandled the puck in his own zone, Henrik Sedin hit his brother for the quick goal. Daniel got the shot off so fast, Luongo simply had no time to react.
During the opening period, the Canucks showed a touching tribute video to Luongo that brought the crowd at Rogers Arena to its feet.
After thunderous standing ovation and video, tribute, Luongo lifts mask, salutes crowd with wave of stick, touch of heart. Nice.— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) January 9, 2015
Midway through the period, the Panthers would tie the game up as Aleksander Barkov delivered his first goal in 18 games. After the Panthers came away with the puck in Vancouver's zone off a turnover, Jonathan Huberdeau sent in a shot on net that deflected off Ryan Miller, and Barkov was there to tip in the rebound goal.
The Panthers would take their first lead of the night halfway into the 2nd period. After Florida won a face-off in Vancouver's zone, Aaron Ekblad delivered a shot towards the net and Aleksander Barkov positioned himself to tip in the puck for his second goal of the night. Ekblad may not even be old enough to drink (he's only 18), but you wouldn't know it from a play like that.
Aaron Ekblad's birth certificate says he's 32— GhostFace Miller (@TzaVancouver) January 9, 2015
As to be expected, things got a little scrappy as the night went on. A little more than halfway through the 2nd period, Kevin Bieksa and Jussi Jokinen were both sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct as the game went to OT style hockey for two minutes.
The Panthers would take advantage of a bad change late in the period to build to their lead. Lucas Sbisa headed to the bench for a line change and Ryan Stanton was left to chase down Johnathan Huberdeau, who found himself in all alone. Huberdeau beat Miller with a shot that went off the post and in as the Panthers took a 3-1 lead.
Sbisa may as well have high-fived Huberdeau as he came off the bench. Jesus.— Mitch (@MitchEmDee) January 9, 2015
Linden Vey nearly cut into Florida's lead on a power play soon after the Panthers' goal, but Roberto Luongo came up with a huge save to preserve the two-goal lead heading into the final intermission. And you bet your bottom dollar that Twitter had all the "Power Vey" puns ready to go. Vey had the opening on the right side, but Luongo was able to adjust quickly enough to make the save as Florida took a 3-1 lead going into the final period.
Needing a quick goal to cut into the lead, Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias almost provided one for the Canucks. Richardson wrapped the puck around the net and hit Matthias who rushed in on net. However, Luongo was able to sprawl out and stop the scoring chance to keep it 3-1. We were being treated to classic Lu, and for once, that wasn't a good thing.
No. Stop. His goodness is frustrating now. RT @canuckshockey: Luuuuuuuuu— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) January 9, 2015
The Canucks would go to the power play a little more than midway through the final period, desperately needing a goal with time ticking away. While Vancouver had found their, climbing from 18th to 9th in the league on the power play over the course of the past few weeks, they struggled against the Panthers on Thursday. The Canucks would get a brief 5-on-3 advantage, but wasted the opportunity as they weren't able to get a shot on net. Vancouver would be on the power play for another three minutes due to a double minor against Dave Bolland, but weren't able to capitalize as fans began to vocalize their frustration.
Fans are 'booing' this power play. More accurately, this squandered opportunity. #Canucks— Cam Tucker (@CamTucker_Metro) January 9, 2015
Those frustrations boiled over when Willie Mitchell and Derek Dorsett collided with Roberto Luongo in net. Luongo didn't like that one bit, and Luongo threw a couple punches at Dorsett.
Luongo throwing a series of blocker punches without a penalty. Like a boss.— Jason Botchford (@botchford) January 9, 2015
When did Luongo become an enforcer? Florida has changed you, man.— Hosea Cheung (@hoseacheung) January 9, 2015
After Luongo's punches, it would be the Panthers who would actually go to the power play. Because you can't penalize a guy on the night that a tribute video is played for him.
The scuffle would be the last bit of excitement during the night as the fans essentially booed the team off the ice as Roberto Luongo notched his first victory against his former team.
The Canucks will look to rebound from the frustrating loss when they take on the Calgary Flames on Saturday night in Vancouver, or as I like to refer to them, the Calgary Slumpbusters. Puck drops at 7:00 pm.