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5 TAKEAWAYS: Reinhart Strong in Return as Panthers Top Canucks

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/11/22 Post Game Interviews

1/11/22 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Interim Head Coach Andrew Brunette, forward Sam Reinhart and defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Radko Gudas

  • 01:30 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Panthers remain on fire since coming out of the pause.

Improving to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, they rushed out to an early lead and never really looked back in a convincing 5-2 win over the Canucks at FLA Live Arena on Tuesday.

"It's unbelievable to be on a team like this," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "We work hard. We play within our system. We're never beat. Our persistence in games is incredible."

Showing off their home-ice advantage, the Panthers scored on two of their first three shots in the first period to jump out to an early 2-0 lead before the Canucks could even get warmed up.

Ekblad got the party started when, with Maxim Mamin blinding Thatcher Demko with a screen in front, he fired a shot from the point into the back of the net to make it 1-0 at 5:18. Just 1:06 after that, Sam Reinhart tipped in a long shot from Radko Gudas to double the lead and make it 2-0.

Dropping his gloves before the goal horn even went off, Gudas then fought J.T. Miller.

Answering for the Canucks, Jason Dickinson collected a pass from Conor Garland and snuck a quick short-side shot past Sergei Bobrovsky from the left circle to make it a 2-1 game at 11:31.

"Making good simple plays early and getting a good forecheck really puts a team on their heels," Ekblad said of the action during the opening frame. "Obviously scoring that first goal was huge."

Filling up the net in the second period, the Panthers extended their lead to 3-1 when a shot from Jonathan Huberdeau hit off Reinhart before sailing into the cage on the power play at 8:46. Less than a minute later, Mamin then quickly made it 4-1 when he one-timed a sweet between-the-legs pass from Anton Lundell with his backhand past Demko from on top of the crease at 9:12.

Putting a bow on the team's scoring outburst in the second period despite being on the penalty kill, Ekblad dug the puck out from along the boards up the ice to Barkov, who then blew right past a defender before burying a shorthanded breakaway to make it 5-1 at the 19-minute mark.

With the Panthers having already built up a big cushion on the scoreboard, the Canucks tallied the lone goal of the third period when Juho Lammikko potted a rebound to make it 5-2 at 4:34.

Standing tall between the pipes, Bobrovsky stopped 42 of 44 shots to improve his personal record to 17-3-3, while Demko surrendered five goals on 26 shots at the other end of the ice.

"You get out to that early lead and you kind of let your foot off the gas a little bit," Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. "A couple bad habits creep in and you kind of have to adjust after the first and get going. I thought we played a really good second period and kind of took over the game. In the third, you get up goals and you get a little loose. I don't love that as a coach, but these guys kind of deserved it a bit. They earned a 5-1 lead. It was a hard game."

Sitting atop the NHL's standings with a record of 24-7-5, Florida improved to 19-3-0 at home.

"We've got a long way to go, but I like where we're headed," Gudas said.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's win in Sunrise…

1. DOUBLE DIGITS FOR EK

Ekblad has reached double digits.

By connecting on one of his patented "Ek-blasts" to put the Panthers up 1-0 early on in the first period, he became just the third defenseman in the NHL to reach the 10-goal mark this season. Also in that exclusive club are Nashville's Roman Josi (12) and Colorado's Cale Makar (16).

Video: VAN@FLA: Ekblad finds better lane, goes glove side

"It's important for us to get that hot start, and we did tonight," Ekblad said.

Finishing with a goal and two assists against the Canucks, Ekblad has now posted a pair of three-point performances over his last three games. With a goal and six assists over his last four games, he's now tied for fourth among the league's defensemen in scoring with 32 points.

2. REINHART'S BACK

Welcome back, Sam!

Slotting back into the lineup after sitting out the previous three games while going through the NHL's COVID protocols, Reinhart picked up right where he left off in his return, tipping a shot from Gudas past Demko from the slot to put the Panthers up 2-0 early in the first frame tonight.

Video: VAN@FLA: Reinhart directs Gudas' shot far side

"He's an extremely important player," Ekblad said of Reinhart. "The additions we've made the last couple years are paying dividends here for us. They're fantastic players, and Reino's one of those guys. He's calm, cool and collected in all situations. He can do a little bit of everything."

Back at it in the second period, Reinhart recorded his first multi-goal game of the season when Huberdeau's shot on the power play clipped him before flying into the net to up the lead to 3-1.

Video: VAN@FLA: Reinhart scores PPG with redirect over Demko

"I don't think we're doing anything special," Reinhart said. "I think we're playing a pretty simple game offensively. We're getting bodies to the front of the net and getting the puck there at the right times. I think we're all on the same page there and it's been effective."

In the midst of his first season in South Florida, Reinhart has notched 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 33 games.

3. MAMIN MAKES IT HAPPEN

Everyone on the third line got involved on this goal.

After Frank Vatrano won a battle along the boards, Lundell sent a no-look pass to the front of the net where it was backhanded in by Mamin to extend the lead to 4-1 in the second period.

Video: VAN@FLA: Mamin scores in 2nd period

"He's a really great player," Lundell said of Mamin. "He's really fast. He can read lays very well. He can see the whole ice and find the guys if they're open. He's very good with the puck."

In 18 games this season, Mamin has scored five goals.

4. SWEET DISH

Don't look now, but Lundell is climbing his way into the Calder Trophy conversation.

After dishing out a pair of assists tonight -- including his beautiful, no-look, between-the-legs feed on Mamin's goal -- he's now tallied two goals and six assists over his last seven games.

As of right now, he ranks fifth among rookies in points (20) and tied for fourth in assists (13).

"[My confidence] the whole season has been very high, but maybe the last weeks it's been even higher," Lundell said. "It's been a lot of fun. I enjoy every game, every shift. Every time I'm out on the ice I just try to do my best and show the fans what I can do."

In addition to his growing point total, Lundell leads all NHL rookies in takeaways with 36.

5. BARKOV'S BEAUTY

Even when they're on the penalty kill, the Panthers show their claws.

Following a faceoff win by Reinhart in the defensive zone, Ekblad flipped the puck up the right side of the ice to Barkov, who then simply cruised past a defender before beating Demko on a breakaway for a shorthanded goal that put the Panthers up 5-1 heading into the third period. Over his last six games, Barkov has amassed three shorthanded goals.

Video: VAN@FLA: Barkov has step on Canuck, scores by blocker

"He's as good a player as we're going to see in our game," Brunette said. "He turns it on when he needs to. That was a big goal. We've had a lot of opportunities. Huby's made some great plays while shorthanded. We have some ability to score shorthanded, which is a nice treat."

Scoring at a spectacular rate, Barkov has netted 15 goals in just 23 games this season.

Moving up the record books as he often does, the captain also surpassed Hall of Famer Pavel Bure for the third-most shorthanded goals in franchise history with the 10th tally of his career.

BONUS: BRUNO'S AN ALL-STAR

Congratulations are in order for Bruno!

Earlier this afternoon, it was announced that the Cats interim head coach will be behind the bench for the Atlantic Division squad at the upcoming 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas.

"He's been great," Reinhart said. "It was a tough spot to jump into and he's handled it incredibly. The guys love playing for him. The guys love going out there on a nightly basis and playing hard for him. We're all thrilled."

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: The Atlantic Division hit the jackpot!Our very own Coach Brunette is headed to #NHLAllStar ������📝 �� https://t.co/9z7kbHhIUl pic.twitter.com/dTIv7KdT9C

 

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