Ben Hutton's goal at 7:20 of the third period sparked the Vancouver Canucks to a 5-1 home-ice victory over the Florida Panthers in NHL action Sunday. Hutton gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead as he one-timed Troy Stecher's long rebound past Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo. The goal was the first in 30 games for Hutton, who went all of last season without scoring. The Canucks then added three more goals en route to their first win in four games. The Panthers bore their sixth straight loss.
Loui Eriksson led the Canucks with a goal and two assists. Brock Boeser and Jay Beagle supplied empty-netters, while Markus Granlund scored with Luongo back in and 11 seconds remaining, during the final 2:17. Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers. The game was a goaltenders' duel between Luongo and Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom, who were the central pieces of a multi-player 2014 trade between the Panthers and Canucks. Luongo was the busiest of the two goalies by a wide margin, as he recorded 31 saves on 34 shots against the team that he backstopped to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Markstrom, the only player remaining with Vancouver from the trade, stopped 23 of 24.
Luongo's return to Rogers Arena generated considerable buzz as fans and media types alike wondered whether he was playing his final game in Vancouver. But Luongo, 39, said recently that he does not know when he will call it quits. Eriksson put the Canucks on the scoreboard at 12:32 of the second period as he pestered Mike Hoffman, then knocked down the Panther winger's clearing attempt, went around Luongo and scored from a sharp angle.
The goal was the first since Dec. 20 for Eriksson, who is Vancouver's highest paid player at $6 million per season. The Canucks had back-to-back chances to increase their lead late in the second period, but Markus Granlund hit the post, and then Luongo got his glove on Josh Leivo's laser-like shot. Ironically, Luongo's sensational save drew a loud cheer from the crowd. Early in the third period, Markstrom robbed Nick Bjugstad, stretching to catch a shot from the top of the crease. Vatrano finally managed to beat Markstrom with a backhand at 5:29 of the final frame -- one second after a hooking penalty to Vancouver's Nikolay Goldobin expired. But Hutton put the Canucks ahead 2-1 less than two minutes later. Bjugstad returned to action after missing 16 games with an undisclosed upper-body injury that had sidelined him since Dec. 6.
(With inputs from agencies.)