VANCOUVER — The Florida Panthers won in Vancouver Wednesday night but their hearts were back home.
Many of the Panther players were emotional after their 4-3 victory against the Vancouver Canucks, their thoughts focused on the massacre at a high school near the team's practice facility. At least 17 people were killed in the shooting at Parkland, Fla.
"It was tough," said Jamie McGinn, who scored a power-play goal in the win. "You turn on the TV in the afternoon . . . and it's close to home. This is where a lot of the guys, they have young kids now, but when they get older that's the high school they will be going to, so it affected our team.
"It's a sad world we live in right now."
Captain Derek Mackenzie's voice cracked with emotion when talking to reporters.
"I think it goes to show the character in the room," he said. "We talked about getting two points and kind of dedicating this win to everybody back home.
"What can I say? It's a sad day. I wish I was there right now to talk to my family and neighbours and everyone that has been affected by this. But we can't be there so the next best thing is come back and win."
Florida gave up a goal just 32 seconds into the game and trailed 2-1 with just over eight minutes gone in the first period. The Panthers battled back with three straight goals before the period ended, the last two just 1:11 apart.
"I don't know if it was one of our best games, but you give credit to the guys, given the circumstances today," said MacKenzie.
"I thought we had a bit of a sluggish start, probably for a lot of reasons, then kind of settled in and tried to control emotions and came up with two points."
Nick Bjugstad led the Panthers with a goal and an assist.
Evgenii Dadonov and Alexander Petrovic also scored for Florida (25-23-6). The Panthers are 6-1-0 in their last seven games and are seven points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bo Horvat had a goal and two assists for Vancouver (22-29-6). Brock Boeser, on a power play, and Michael Del Zotto also scored for the Canucks, who are 1-6-0 in their last seven games.
Florida goalie James Reimer, making his second consecutive start after missing six games with a groin injury, stopped 34 shots. Canuck goaltender Jacob Markstrom was replaced after allowing four goals on 14 shots in the first period. Anders Nilsson stopped all 20 shots he faced in relief.
The first period saw a couple of strange goals scored.
Vancouver's opening goal came when Del Zotto took a shot that Reimer stopped. The rebound floated high in the air and appeared to deflect off Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad's stick into the net.
McGinn tied the came on another bizarre play. Ekblad took a shot from a sharp angle that hit McGinn on the back, flipped over his shoulder and into the net.
It was that kind of night, said Horvat.
"It was a bunch of fluke goals," he shrugged. "You can't make any excuses.
"It was fluky goals tonight but that's the way it bounces."
It was a frustrating loss for the Canucks, who were coming off an impressive 6-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars Sunday night.
"We have to be consistent," said Horvat. "We've had great games then the next game or two games haven't been so good.
"To find that consistency in our game will be huge."
Head coach Travis Green said his team did some things well, but didn't play good enough for a long enough stretch to win.
"They are a really fast team," said the rookie head coach. "If you are going to beat a fast team you have to be able to pass the puck, you have to be able to handle the puck, your details have to be good and you have to win puck battles.
"As times we did that, at times we didn't, especially in the first period. We're not a good enough team to not play a good 60 minutes, not to be on top of our game, not have everyone playing pretty good hockey."
NOTES: There was a moment of silence prior to the game for the shooting victims. … The Canucks announced Wednesday GM Jim Benning has been given a contract extension. … Former Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, who missed 26 games with a groin injury, was activated off injured reserve and backed up Reimer.