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Canucks, Panthers hold moment of silence after Florida school shooting Wednesday

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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, along with a full house at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, paid their respects to the victims of a school shooting in Florida on Wednesday.

At least 17 people died when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida around 3 p.m.

The Panthers, who play 10 miles south of Parkland at BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL, are in the midst of a five-game road trip.

The Panthers recorded messages of support prior to the game.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad tweeted out: “Heavy hearts for the victims, families and first responders in Parkland today. #unthinkable”

Fellow defenseman Mike Matheson also took to Twitter: “Praying for everyone affected by the shooting back home in South Florida. Stay safe 🙏”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Pacioretty continues hot streak

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Players of the Night:

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens: Here’s a name you haven’t seen often in these parts this season. But Pacioretty had two goals tonight, the opener for the Canadiens and the game-winner with 1:18 left in the third period to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. He also added an assist on Montreal’s other goal. Truth be told, Pacioretty has been sizzling lately with six goals and an assist in his past six games.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks: Gibson had a quiet night for the most part until the third period, but he was stellar when called upon and made 23 saves, including a second-period beauty (which you will see below) to help his team to a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Highlights of the Night:

James Neal had all the moves to help the Vegas Golden Knights secure a point on the road in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.

John Gibson got just enough on this puck to redirect it off the post and out for quite the save:

Factoid of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Panthers 4, Golden Knights 3 (OT)

Canadiens 3, Capitals 2

Ducks 2, Kings 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Roberto Luongo could return to practice soon

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The mandatory off week for the Florida Panthers appears to have done wonders for injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers No. 1 netminder has “turned a corner” as he continues to rehab a lower-body injury, Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Thursday.

The Panthers practiced for the first time since their mandatory break on Thursday, and although Luongo is still on pace for a return early next month, the news was good to hear for a team nine points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think he’s turned a corner a little bit,” Boughner told reporters after the team’s practice. “He’s showing some good improvement here in the last few days. We’re excited to hopefully get him back out on the ice during a practice at some upcoming point.”

Luongo hasn’t played since Dec. 4, when he was injured in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The news of Luongo’s pending return was probably a little music to the ears of James Reimer.

Reimer has started Florida’s past 16 games, posting an 8-6-2 record with .924 save percentage during that span, but ran into the break losing four of his previous five starts.

Still, Reimer has performed admirably in Luongo’s absence, as he bounced back from an unfavorable start to the season that saw Luongo regain the starter’s reins.

The Panthers will have five games in-hand on Pittsburgh Penguins, who entered Thursday occupying the final spot. They play the Los Angeles Kings live on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

The Panthers return to action on Friday when they host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

Reimer is expected to start No. 17.

Florida Panthers prefer long-term agenda over short-term gain

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If the Florida Panthers are going to emerge from the season with a playoff spot, they’re going to need to find a little more scoring.

But general manager Dale Tallon won’t be making any deadline deals that don’t make sense in the long-term.

“It’s going to take somebody that’s going to be involved in that process for us to make a move,” Tallon said, speaking to reporters in Florida on Friday. “We have pieces coming that are our own. As far as the deadline and other trades, we’re always looking at that.”

That process, Tallon said, includes the Panthers looking within. Tallon said nothing is being looked at for short-term gain.

“We’ve got great kids coming, we’ve got really good players in our minor league system,” Tallon said. “I really like what’s happening as far as our future (is concerned).”

That said, Tallon added that he and his scouting team have identified some pieces that could fit the puzzle.

“We just ended a good, prosperous week at with our pro scouts here in Florida,” he said. “There are a lot of good young players around. We’ve identified some guys who we think would fit in beautifully with our team. We’re going to be really strong up the middle and good on the backend with our young defenseman.”

Florida’s talent stream starts with the 23rd pick in 2016 in center Henrik Borgstrom.

Borgstrom won the NCAA title with Denver in his first season in collegiate hockey last season. The Finn will provide size up the middle, something Tallon alluded to.

The Panthers also have the 10th pick in this past summer’s draft in forward Owen Tippett.

Tippett had a break-out season last year with 44 goals in 60 games and has 17 in 23 so far this season in the Ontario Hockey League.

And don’t forget, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck are only 24 and Alexander Barkov is just 22. All three have hit the 40-point mark this season. On the blue line, Aaron Ekblad is 21.

Point is, the Panthers have a good-looking crop of young talent, several of which are making big strides in The Show already.

Tallon discussed his team thus far this season and what could be done to improve it, including finding some adding scoring depth for one of the lowest scoring teams in the league.

“I think we’re relying on a lot of young players and it takes time,” Tallon said. “Scoring is the hardest thing to do. We need a balanced attack, of course. Trocheck is doing all that we’ve asked and more. We’ve got to get some contributions from other guys throughout the lineup.”

Entering the night six points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, Tallon said he liked the position his team was in after winning six of its last 10 and crawling up from the basement of the conference.

“We’re in a good spot. I like how we’re playing. I like the position we are in,” Tallon told reporters. “I think we’ll be a better team in the second half for a lot of reason: more experience, the coaching is starting to come together as far as the system, it’s more natural for the players. Less breakdowns, more teamwork and a lot more passion and desire and a lot more consistency.”

The Buzzer: Marleau continues to turn back the clock; Vegas continues to rewrite record book

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Players of the Night: 

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs: Marleau scored two more goals, his 13th and 14th goals of the season. It was the 67th multi-goal game of his long career. It’s been a great season for the former Sharks forward. The man is timeless, everyone. Timeless.

James Reimer, Florida Panthers: Reimer stopped 29 of 31 shots for his fourth consecutive win. Reimer has put up a .935 save percentage or better in each of those four games.

Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek, Vancouver Canucks: Each player had a pair of goals to their respective names in a 5-2 win for the Canucks over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Highlights of the Night: 

Marleau’s second goal of the game came off a pretty slick deke after getting the puck alone in front:

Derek MacKenzie goal finished off this slick cross-ice pass. It was a short-handed goal to boot.

Nikita Kucherov‘s no-look pass found Steven Stamkos for some Sedin-like magic:

Joonas Donskoi in a short film that needs no explanation:

Factoids of the Night: 

James Reimer is doing things in Florida:

Brock Boeser is re-writing the Canucks’ rookie record book:

MISC: 

Scores:

Lightning 3, Canadiens 1

Capitals 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

Panthers 3, Flyers 2

Maple Leafs 7, Coyotes 4

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Golden Knights 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Sharks 3, Flames 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck