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Canucks edge Panthers for third straight win

by Cristina Ledra /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Ryan Miller was 2:32 shy of posting his third straight shutout, but he and the Vancouver Canucks hung on for the 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Monday.

Radim Vrbata and Bo Horvat scored for Vancouver (26-15-3), which has won three in a row.

Brandon Pirri prevented Miller from earning his third straight shutout with a goal off a faceoff. Miller's personal-best shutout streak ended at 200:45.

Roberto Luongo made 22 saves for Florida (20-14-10), which has lost four straight.

"I just couldn't catch up to it," Miller said. "I didn't see the release very well. If I don't see the release, I'm probably dead in the water, so it got through. It gave them some life, gave them a chance, but we did a good job getting the puck cleared and pressure down ice, and that was that."

Miller has five shutouts this season, one short of his career-high in 2011-2012 with half of a season still remaining.

"I'm just not trying to be desperate about anything," Miller said of his performance in the first half. "I'm trying to let everything unfold and I try to engage in the play. I'm not trying to tell myself that I shouldn't get too caught up in one save or one moment.

"There's going to be many of them in the course of the night and I want to make a difference, so I'm taking them as they come, make my read, make my decision and go from there. If it works out or it doesn't, my job doesn't change. I'm just trying to get in that headspace where each game is a continuation of the last and the last."

The Canucks earned their 15th road win of the season, which coach Willie Desjardins said is a testament to their preparation.

"I think it takes character to win on the road," Desjardins said. "I think it's hard to win on the road. We'd probably like to do better at home, but to win on the road, you have to be prepared because it's always tough. We've had a good stretch, we've had real good goaltending and we've found ways to win."

Vrbata gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead with a shot over Luongo's glove at 16:35 of the first period. Vancouver center Henrik Sedin won the faceoff against Panthers center Dave Bolland to the right of Luongo. Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin grabbed the puck and passed it in front to Vrbata, who scored his 18th goal of the season.

Four minutes later, Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad got caught out of position in front of his bench, which allowed a 2-on-1 to develop with defenseman Brian Campbell defending Horvat and right wing Derek Dorsett. Horvat took the puck into the zone and fired a shot at Luongo. The puck went through Luongo's legs and dribbled into the net, giving Horvat his third goal of the season at 11:57.

The Canucks have won three in a row after losing three straight and moved ahead of the San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division.

The Panthers, however, sputter into the All-Star Break, losing all three games in their homestand after a successful trip to Western Canada that saw them win three of four.

Florida's struggles on the power play continued against the Canucks. The Panthers were 29th in the League entering the game and after failing to score with the man-advantage four more times, the Panthers have now scored once in their past 23 opportunities.

"[The All-Star Break] comes at a good time," Luongo said. "We feel we've lost a little bit of jam here as a team, so it's good for the guys to get a week off and recharge and come back with a fresh mindset next week for the second half of the year."

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was pleased that his team ended with a solid effort after a poor showing in the first period. Florida outshot Vancouver 10-1 in the third, but the rally fell short.

"I'm glad we played well the last two periods tonight because I would've been really disappointed," Gallant said. "We're six games over .500 now at the break and we get a week off. It could've been a real good finish and had a good homestand, but we lose three in a row and get one point, so it's a little disappointing right now.

"For me, personally, I think we had a good first half to the break right now. We didn't play that well in the last three games. We had some spurts where we played well, but it wasn't enough. We have to work on winning hockey games and it's one at a time, one at a time. And we know we're going to have to play real well to have a chance at the playoffs."

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