As Mikael Samuelsson, John Madden and Kris Versteeg took the ice as the first unit tonight, it should have been clear to Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo that these aren't the same old Panthers.
The Cats started out hitting Luongo hard, getting the first four shots on goal in the first three minutes. That's where the Panthers showed a defensive lapse, and the Canucks made the Panthers pay with a two on none break that resulted in the first goal of the game, by Dale Weise with an assist by Manny Malhotra.
At the five minute mark, a little extra-curricular activity between Keith Ballard and Michal Repik resulted in two Canucks and a Panther going into the box for the Panthers first power play of the night.
The Canucks were up to the penalty kill, twice clearing the puck while allowing only one shot on goal, a slapshot from Brian Campbell which was turned aside by Luongo.
Kris Versteeg was called for tripping Chris Higgins with seven minutes left in the period, putting Vancouver and their league leading power play on their first man advantage of the evening. The Canucks attacked the Panthers net, keeping the puck in the zone for almost the whole two minutes but only getting one shot on net.
Aside from the goal allowed in the first four minutes, Clemmensen was standing pretty tall in net, making a lot of good shots look average.
At the one minute mark, Tomas Kopecky left a drop pass for Shawn Matthias that almost found it's way into the net, but Luongo, fresh off a shutout, is looking very sharp tonight.
Samuelsson had a quick one on zero against Luongo, nearly evening the score with some nifty stickwork at the four minute mark, but did not connect and the Panthers stayed scoreless, but not for long.
At the five minute mark, Dmitry Kulikov pulled the Cats even with his fourth goal of the season on a slapshot off a rebound from the left faceoff circle. Assists were awarded to Marcel Goc and Shawn Matthias.
Just a minute later, Kulikov was called for hooking ex-Panther Chris Higgins. On the ensuing power play, Matthias and Jason Garrison nearly put the Panthers on top with an odd-man short handed rush.
Dale Weise was called for holding Kulikov with nine minutes gone in the period for the Panthers second power play opportunity of the night.
The Cats went on an unrelenting assault of Luongo, and pulled ahead, 2-1 with Marcel Goc's fourth goal of the season in the middle of a scramble in front of the Vancouver net. Assists were awarded to Samuelsson and Versteeg.
Florida only allowed the Canucks two shots throughout the period, tying a season low.
Samuelsson was called for tripping less than a minute into the third when he got his stick tangled between Alexandre Selzer's skates. On the penalty kill, the Panther's cleared the puck three times and nearly got a shorthanded chance while allowing three shots, but held the Canucks scoreless for the duration of the penalty.
Matt Bradley brought the BAC crowd to their feet with a crushing check on Canucks forward Dan Hamhuis against the boards with 11 minutes left in the third.
Clemmensen kept the Panthers in the game for much of the third, making 12 saves in the first 15 minutes of the period, many of them of the difficult variety.
Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg broke in with two minutes to play for a two-on-one chance, but Versteeg put it off the post.
Luongo was pulled from the net with a minute to play, and the Panthers quickly cleared it out of the zone. On the ensuing rush, Burrows was called for interference, putting the Panthers on the power play. The Canucks did not get an equalizer, and the game ended, Panthers, 2-1.
Hits: Panthers, 26-20 (Matt Bradley again led all skaters with five).
Blocked Shots: Panthers, 16-11 (Mikael Samuellson, Jason Garrison and Ed Jovanovski each had three for Florida).
Faceoffs: Panthers, 29-25 (Stephen Weiss led the way by winning 10 of 14 faceoffs, as Marcel Goc and John Madden each split their chances).
Shots On Goal: Canucks, 26-22 (Goc, Tomas Kopecky, Dmitry Kulikov and Samuelsson each tallied three shots for the Cats. Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler each made four shots for the Canucks).
Final Score: Panthers 2, Canucks 1