Maybe the Panthers — with two little-known players getting primary assists — have found some combinations that work.
Sasha Barkov, captain Derek MacKenzie, Aaron Ekblad and Vincent Trocheck scored to lead the slumping Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night at BB&T Center. Barkov and MacKenzie also had assists.
Seth Griffith, placed on Florida’s top line for the first time Saturday, rewarded interim coach Tom Rowe by getting the Panthers on the board almost immediately. Barkov scored off of Griffith’s wraparound pass with just 2:22 gone in the first period.
Griffith said he appreciated playing with Barkov.
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“He’s a great player,” Griffith said. “He sees the ice extremely well. He is one of the best two-way forwards in the game.”
Then Paul Thompson, a 28-year-old career minor-leaguer, picked up his first NHL point when his shot bounced back to MacKenzie, who cleaned up to give the Panthers a 2-0 second-period lead.
On Ekblad’s rebound goal, Jaromir Jagr earned an assist, giving him 1,883 career points. He needs four points to tie Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL list.
Roberto Luongo earned the win against his former team, and the Panthers got the best of four players with local ties. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, defenseman Erik Gudbranson and right winger Jack Skille are former Panthers. Canucks center Jayson Megna was born in Fort Lauderdale.
Skille beat Luongo, glove side, with 11:54 left in the third period. It was Skille’s third goal of the season and also his third in two games as he also had two in Tampa Bay on Thursday.
The Canucks also got a power-play goal from Daniel Sedin with 8:15 left in the third. A penalty against Thompson — he slashed Michael Chaput — gave Vancouver its opportunity, and Sedin roofed his shot.
But an empty-net goal by Trocheck ended Vancouver’s aspirations.
Rowe, who replaced the fired Gerard Gallant on Nov. 27, earned his first home win since the change was made. The Panthers improved to 13-12-4.
“I love that,” Rowe said of the win. “A bunch of teams in our division lost so we gained ground.”
Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle played in his 580th consecutive game, tying Johnny Wilson for ninth place on the all-time NHL list.
The longest-games-played streak in NHL history is 964 set by Doug Jarvis, now a Canucks assistant coach. Among active players, Yandle is second behind Anaheim Ducks winger Andrew Cogliano.
There were two main highlights in the first period. The first came during the game’s initial timeout. The Panthers played video tribute to Gudbranson, who was the Panthers’ first-round pick — third overall — in 2010. He was traded to Vancouver in May.
The video showed highlights of Gudbranson’s career that included draft day, signing his first contract, scoring goals, making big hits and serving the community.
After watching the video, Gudbranson tapped his heart and saluted the fans.
“It was a pleasure to be here,” Gudbranson said after the game. “I had a lot of fun (while playing for Florida). Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the outcome we wanted tonight.”
Griffith, a 23-year-old center and former fifth-round pick from Ontario, provided the other highlight with his assist.