Considering the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers are based so far apart from each other geographically and play each other so rarely as a result of being in different conferences, you’d think there wouldn’t be many story lines to come out of a clash between these two clubs.
However, since former Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo’s triumphant return to the sunshine state, every matchup against his old club is notable, especially considering how well he is playing this season (.925 SV%, 2.26 GAA) compared to his replacement in Vancouver, Ryan Miller (.909 SV%, 2.74 GAA).
The eyes of the hockey world were also glued to the BB&T Center in Sunrise for another reason last night, namely to witness one of the game’s all-time greats reach yet another milestone.
MUST SEE: Jagr and Barkov’s Magic Show
The great Jaromir Jagr scored his 732nd goal in his 1581st game to pass Marcel Dionne for 4th place on the all time list, just nine goals back of Brett Hull, who sits 3rd with 741 (Jagr still has a ways to go to catch Gordie Howe’s 2nd-place 801 goals, but does anyone think that’s impossible anymore? He only needs 69 more). The 43-year-old winger now has 10 goals and 24 points in 31 games this season.
“That goal was sweet and the win was even sweeter,” Jagr said after the game, as quoted by the Panthers website. “I’ve played with a lot of great players. That’s what makes it a lot easier for me. I started in Pittsburgh with great players and hopefully I’ll finish here with great players.”
But the Panthers weren’t done with the highlight reel just yet. After entering overtime tied at four, and peppering Miller with eight shots in overtime, Florida forward Brandon Pirri got the shootout off to a nice start by beating the Canucks goalie, who subsequently had to leave the game with cramps, forcing cold backup Jacob Markstrom into the skills competition. He stopped the first shot he faced against Jonathan Huberdeau…but then this happened.
Reminding Vancouver fans of a move made by another young offensive dynamo they once possessed, Aleksander Barkov went skate-to-stick to absolutely embarrass Markstrom for the shootout winner. It was a good night for 20-year-old Barkov, who also got the primary assist on Jagr’s historic marker.
With the 5-4 win, Florida moved into 4th place in the very tight Atlantic Division, just three points back of the Montreal Canadiens with the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings sandwiched in between.
The single point by the Canucks was enough to clear up the logjam in the Pacific Division, where they incredibly sit in 3rd place with 33 points despite having fewer regulations/overtime wins (just 10 in 35 games) than any team not named the Maple Leafs, with Arizona, Calgary, Edmonton and even Anaheim still biting at their heels as Vancouver desperately clings to a playoff spot.