Roberto Luongo made 28 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in chilly Newark.
The win was the 448th of Luongo’s career, giving him sole possession of fifth place all-time in NHL history.
Reilly Smith opened the scoring with 3:05 left in the first period with the Panthers enjoying a five-minute power play due to a major penalty for boarding on Pavel Zacha.
Vincent Trocheck threw the puck off the boards behind the net and Jussi Jokinen tipped the carom to Smith, who put his own rebound by Cory Schneider for his eight of the season.
The score remained the same until Jokinen intercepted Damon Severson’s pass at center ice and fired into an empty with 1:05 left in regulation.
Trocheck took a pass from Keith Yandle and added another empty-net goal to complete the scoring 49 seconds later.
The goal was well-earned as Trocheck delivered a gritty, playoff-type performance that saw him lead his depleted club in ice time (25:48) and win 13 of 20 draws.
Before Jokinen clinched the game, Luongo made a big stop on rookie speedster Miles Wood to keep the Cats up by one, preserving the club’s first shutout of the 2016-17 campaign.
The Panthers will get a day off before heading to Brooklyn to take on the New York Islanders.
Florida is now just two points behind Ottawa for third place in the Atlantic Division, but the Senators have played three fewer games. The Cats trail the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card by four points, with each team having played 42 games.
Fire & Brimstone
- In addition to his milestone win, Luongo’s shutout was the 73rd of his career. He is now three away from tying Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for ninth all-time in that category.
- Cory Schneider was strong for New Jersey, finishing the game with 26 saves. One of his best was on Reilly Smith’s initial shot before the winger was able to jam home the loose rebound.
- Denis Malgin was the victim of Pavel Zacha’s boarding major in the first period. Malgin did not return to the game.
- Steve Santini had a fine game on the Devils back end. Santini dished out a game-high hits, blocked two shots and had two shots on goal.
- Florida’s penalty kill took care of both New Jersey power plays. The Cats are sixth in the league with an 85.1 percentage.
- All About The Jersey has the other side of the Panthers’ season sweep of the Devils.