NHL: Reinhart Stays Hot with Two Goals, but Panthers Fall to Canucks

 By Jameson Olive

SUNRISE, Fla. (www.floridasportsday.com)  – Andrei Kuzmenko netted the go-ahead goal with 4:57 left in regulation to help lift the Vancouver Canucks to a 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday.

With the Panthers trailing 3-1 entering the third period, Sam Reinhart scored twice to briefly make it 3-3 before Kuzmenko answered for the Canucks to stifle the attempted comeback.

“We were right there,” said Reinhart, who’s lit the lamp in each of the last four games to increase his team-high goal total to six. “Their first two periods were really solid. I think they were heavier in the battle. It wasn’t that we weren’t moving. I thought we were moving our feet. It’s just in the battles, they were winning the vast majority of them. Early in the season we’ve been able to flip a switch in games, so I like that again tonight, but I think just earlier be more urgent in the battle.”

Just 20 seconds after Quinn Hughes put the Canucks on top 1-0 with a power-play goal at 11:09, Aleksander Barkov answered for the Panthers when he gathered a slick touch-pass from Evan Rodrigues, cut through the defense and buried a backhander to make it 1-1 at 11:29

Taking the lead back for the Canucks in the second period, Carson Soucy skated into the slot on the power play after the Panthers were unable to clear the puck and fired a laser of a shot right over Sergei Bobrovsky’s blocker into the top left corner of the net to make it 2-1 at 10:41.

Immediately adding to Vancouver’s advantage, Kuzmenko set up Elias Pettersson for a goal from the left circle with a spin-o-rama pass from below the goal line to make it 3-1 at 11:15.

“I think Vancouver played a really smart game, a really hard game,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “They were getting pucks in behind and were real physical. The first period I feel was even. The second one, we don’t like that very much at all. Somewhat self-inflicted."

Cutting into the deficit for the Panthers in the third period, Reinhart, who’s been carrying by far the hottest stick on the team in the early goings of the season, pounced on a rebound right around the blue paint and lifted it over a sprawled-out Casey DeSmith to make it 3-2 at 6:10.

Still charging, "The Reino" then found the back of the net again when he took a sweet backhand dish from Rodrigues and beat DeSmith with a shot from the bottom of the left circle to bring the building to life and make it a 3-3 game at 14:01.

Per NHL PR, Reinhart’s six goals through the first five games are the second-most ever by a Panthers player through that span in franchise history, trailing only Pavel Bure (7 GP in 1998-99)..

“He’s continued to improve himself every year,” Maurice said of Reinhart, who's been playing on the top line with Barkov and Rodrigues as of late. “He worked incredibly hard this summer to be one of our fittest athletes. You can tell he’s got the legs, he’s driving.”

Putting a damper on Florida’s comeback hopes, Kuzmenko took advantage of some chaos around the crease and fired a shot into the cage to put Vancouver back on top 4-3 at 15:03.

With 2:10 left on the clock, Brock Boeser made it 5-3 and sealed the win for the Canucks with an empty-net goal.

Snapping their winning streak at two games, the Panthers now sit at 2-3-0.

“I don’t think there’s too much to it,” defenseman Josh Mahura said. “We did a good job of getting it tied and just coming out in the third and really trying to get our game established. Unfortunately it just didn’t go our way in the end.”

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