It only took the Panthers nine seconds to light the lamp after rookie Jayce Hawryluk drew a holding call on defenseman Dennis Cholowski three minutes into the action.
All five Panthers touched the puck after an Aleksander Barkov faceoff win to start the power play. Evgenii Dadonov passed back to Jonathan Huberdeau, who swung the puck over to Keith Yandle, before heading below the goal line. Yandle went down low to Barkov, who passed to Huberdeau behind the net, and Florida’s assist leader promptly set up Mike Hoffman for a one-timer from the left circle for the goal.
Florida added to its lead late in the first when Aaron Ekblad headmanned the puck to Barkov to spring the captain and his linemates on a 3-on-2 break. Barkov crossed the blue lien and dropped to Huberdeau, who knifed a pass into the slot for Dadonov, who tapped it forward before popping it over Jimmy Howard’s pad for his team-leading seventeenth goal.
The second period didn’t feature too much action as the teams only combined for fifteen shots on goal.
Detroit got the only goal midway through the frame when former Panther Thomas Vanek stole the puck from Jared McCann behind the Panthers cage, came out in front and put a shot off the far post and then the bottom of Luongo’s right pad and in.
Hoffman almost scored his second of the game five and a half minutes later, but his shot chimed off the post, denying Huberdeau and Barkov a third helper.
While the Panthers didn’t do much after that, the Red Wings, however, were plenty busy in the third, testing Luongo sixteen times.
Among his finer moments over the last twenty: Luongo made a big glove save on Jacob de la Rose; took a Niklas Kronwall shot off the mask and then denied Dylan Larkin with his skate on the subsequent rebound; and flashed the mitt again later to stymie a close-range slapper from Frans Nielsen.
Ekblad almost came up with a late clincher, but like Hoffman, caught iron after the blasting the puck by Howard’s blocker side.
Luongo came up with a couple more saves in the dying seconds to get the Cats back to NHL .500 at 14-14-6, setting the club up for a very successful road trip if they can take care of the Chicago Blackhawks to complete the weekend back-to-back.
While kind of an ugly win, as the Panthers didn’t do a whole lot with just 14 shots over the final forty minutes, the upside was that this was one of Roberto Luongo’s best performances of the season and helped rinse out the bitter taste of Thursday night’s one-sided loss to Toronto. The Red Wings had the Cats on the ropes quite a few times, but the veteran stopper came up big time after time to preserve the lead. Any secondary scoring would have potentially made this a lot easier than it turned out to be, but a win’s a win. Maybe, those missing goals will turn up tomorrow night in the United Center and make things easier on James Reimer, who is slated to start against the Blackhawks. Some numbers of note, the PK was a perfect 4-for-4; Barkov took his first penalty of the season; and Huberdeau posted his 11th multi-point game in the last 14.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)