Roberto Luongo stopped 16 of 17 shots during a frantic third period to make Evgenii Dadonov’s gorgeous second period snipe stand up as the winner in the Florida Panthers 2-1 decision over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Cats have now won five games in a row.
Luongo became the fourth goalie in NHL history age 39 or older to start a season with four wins through his first four personal decisions.
The Panthers played a fine road game for the first forty minutes, limiting the Flyers to just 14 shots on goal.
After a scoreless opening period that saw Florida get 10 of the last 11 shots on goal, the Cats broke through with a power-play goal 8:15 into the middle frame, thanks to a tripping call on defenseman Ivan Provorov.
Mike Hoffman set up the goal to equal Pavel Bure’s franchise-record 13-game point streak, set all the way back in 1999-2000.
After a taking a dish from Mike Matheson, Hoffman released a hard pass from the top edge of the right circle that was deflected on goal by Frank Vatrano. Brian Elliott adjusted to make a nice stop, but the rebound ended up on Aaron Ekblad’s stick and he flipped it off Elliott’s blocker and into the net for his first of the season. Vatrano’s assist was his first of the season, as well.
Ekblad goal was his 54th in the NHL, and first in 21 games, and he passed Jay Bouwmeester for second among defensemen in club history. Robert Svehla is the record-holder with 61.
Speaking of scoring streaks, Dadonov extended his to 12 games with 2:25 left in the period, thanks to a wicked wrister that gave him a team-leading eight goals, and the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Aleksander Barkov sent the Russian out of the Florida zone and he carried up ice and eventually fooled Elliott with a deft stick move that make in look for an instant like he was going to drop the puck back to Barkov before he snapped off a quick, accurate shot,
After keeping the Flyers bottled up for the first two-thirds of the tilt, the third period turned into a run-and-gun affair that saw the two teams combine for 28 shots.
Philadelphia finally solved Luongo 3:55 into the stanza when Oskar Lindbolm found Jakub Voracek wide-open in front with a cross. Voracek didn’t have a lot of room to work with, but managed to one-time the puck by Luongo to halve the deficit. The Panthers were in good shape when Lindbolm and Voracek entered the zone, but Keith Yandle decided to help Alex Petrovic with Lindbolm, leaving the dangerous Voracek all alone. Sean Couturier got the second assist on the play. Couturier now has seven points during a four-game point streak.
Luongo, who finished with 30 stops, came through big time in third, and got some timely help from the cross bar, having to deal with flurries of shots multiple times to keep the Cats ahead. The video below shows him during a busy phase at the beginning of the period, He had a similar situation at the end of the game after Barkov was too unselfish to go for the empty-netter and his pass attempt to Vincent Trocheck was picked off. Barkov gets plenty of accolades (and deservedly so), but I was happy to hear Bob Boughner point this out after the game. That decision almost backfired and could’ve cost his club a big point in the standings.
So, after a nail-biting final twenty minutes, the Panthers left Philadelphia with a win to kick off its six-game road trip. As mentioned above, the Cats have won five in a row; Luongo is now a perfect 4-0 on the season; both Hoffman and Dadonov got points yet again; and Florida’s power-play converted for a sixth-straight game.
One area where the Panthers had a real tough time last night was face-offs. The Flyers won an astounding 41 of the 60 (68%) draws in the game. Also wanted to point Jonathan Huberdeau skated in his 400th NHL game and give Elliott some props for a strong start that helped keep his team in the tilt during the stretches of play where the Cats were the better side. On to Columbus!
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)