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Canucks continue to feel at home against Panthers

by Brian Hunter
British Columbia hasn't been a pleasant travel destination for the Florida Panthers since they entered the NHL for the 1993-94 season. And despite the franchise-record road winning streak they took into Sunday night's game and an early two-goal lead, that fact didn't change.

Pavol Demitra scored twice -- the second starting a three-goal burst in a 2:08 span -- and the Vancouver Canucks rallied with five unanswered goals to beat the Panthers 5-3 at GM Place, a good start to a stretch in which they play 17 of 22 games at home.

"Obviously I'll take those goals any night," Demitra said. "But my legs were working very well, and my line (Demitra, Taylor Pyatt and Mason Raymond) was playing very well. We had the puck on our stick a lot. I just had so much fun tonight."

Demitra scored on the power play with 8:43 left in the second period to snap a 2-2 tie, and the Canucks proceeded to break the game open with two more specialty-team goals. Kyle Wellwood struck on the power play 90 seconds later, and Ryan Kesler capped the burst with a shorthanded tally 38 seconds after that to leave the Panthers reeling.

Craig Anderson stopped 25 shots as Florida's run of five straight road victories came to an end. Defensemen Nick Boynton and Jay Bouwmeester staked the Panthers to an early 2-0 lead by scoring 2:48 apart in the first, but it was almost all Vancouver after that.

Florida last won in Vancouver on March 7, 1994, in a game at the Pacific Coliseum during their inaugural season. The Canucks moved into GM Place the next season and the Panthers have yet to come away with two points in that building.

"I'm not sure the 2-0 lead was what we needed," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "To Vancouver's credit they came out like a different team in the second period, and we didn't handle that adversity well. We were our own worst enemy tonight."

Darcy Hordichuk, an ex-Panther, started the comeback by beating Anderson from 30 feet out at 12:42 of the first period. Demitra tied the score 5:25 into the second when he hammered home a loose puck at the side of the Florida goal after defenseman Karlis Skrastins lost control trying to go behind the net.

"It was really Hordichuk's goal that got us going," Demitra said. "That was huge for us. You could tell the momentum had shifted after he scored that goal, everything started to go our way. It was nice to see a guy like that score a goal, and that was the nicest goal we scored tonight."

Hordichuk joked about his goal: "I told the boys I'd put one top shelf for them -- that's my shot I go to, something I have in my back pocket. A lot of guys haven't seen it. Goalies are only human. You pull the puck across and you go far side, and they're going to take the bait."

The go-ahead goal -- Demitra's 10th of the season -- came when his centering pass deflected off Bouwmeester's skate and past Anderson. Wellwood then tied Daniel Sedin for the team lead with his 12th goal, scoring off assists from Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Kesler beat Anderson on a backhand deke after the puck bounced over Bouwmeester's stick on a Florida power play, allowing Kesler to skate in alone.

"It was just one of those nights," Anderson said. "We lost the momentum there in the second and they got some good chances off some bad bounces. It was a tough night. It was one of those periods where nothing went our way.
"There was a snowball effect and we needed a big save from myself and didn't get it. We needed something like that to change the momentum and didn't get it."

Michael Frolik had the lone goal of the third when he beat Cory Schneider at 6:14 to draw the Panthers within two. Schneider finished with 18 saves, as the Canucks continue to play without Roberto Luongo, who could be out even longer than originally expected due to a groin injury.

"Just when I thought I was ready to get back into it, my groin was telling me something else," Luongo said on Sunday. After having to leave practice early on Wednesday, the All-Star goalie was told to shut down on-ice workouts indefinitely.

Blackhawks 3, Blue Jackets 1 | Video

Chicago treated the 15th sellout crowd in as many games at the United Center this season to a familiar sight: a Blackhawks victory.

Martin Havlat snapped a 1-1 deadlock midway through the third period and Cristobal Huet turned aside 31 shots as Chicago won its fourth straight overall while improving to 10-1-4 on home ice.

"Not all of the games are pretty," Havlat said. "We didn’t play well in the first period. [But] in the second and third, we did exactly what we were told to do in the dressing room. That’s why we won."

Columbus goalie Steve Mason had a shutout for nearly 40 minutes only to see Patrick Sharp score his 17th of the season with less than a second left in the middle period. Brent Seabrook added an empty-net goal for Chicago.

"It's definitely hard," Mason said. "We played well enough, but just couldn't find a way to put the puck away."

Fredrik Modin got the Blue Jackets going early, scoring his seventh of the season at 1:35 for a 1-0 lead. Huet was screened and dropped to the ice as Modin took a wrist shot from the right circle that sailed over his shoulder.

Mason made 30 saves, including a sharp right pad stop on Havlat after he was left wide open at the edge of the crease early in the second. But Sharp beat the buzzer with the Blackhawks on a power play, deflecting the puck into the net off a sprawled Mason, who had gone down to make a glove save on Cam Barker's shot from the blue line.

"Not too many guys would have stayed in there and made that play," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got a fortunate bounce. Little plays like that really complement our game."

Havlat netted the winner 9:36 into the third by ripping a shot from the left circle past Mason. Duncan Keith set up the goal on a crisp give-and-go, then picked up another assist on Seabrook's tally with 22 seconds remaining.

"It was a big goal at the end of the second period to sort of get us going, get us rolling, and I think we had a great third where we came out and did a lot of the right things in the third period to get opportunities," Seabrook said.

Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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