Locked in Luongo leads Panthers past Oilers 4-2

Gritty Cats post their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The Florida Panthers are enjoying life away from the BB&T Center. The Cats won their third straight game north of the border to ensure a winning record on their six-game road trip with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers last night at Rexall Place.

Roberto Luongo made 31 saves to the lead Florida to its 20th win of the season. Luongo, who was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team this weekend, lowered his GAA to stingy 2.23.

Jimmy Hayes lit the lamp 4:01 into the first period to put the Panthers on top. Nick Bjugstad carried the puck into the Edmonton zone, but lost the puck. An opportunistic Hayes was there to pick it up and fire it past Ben Scrivens for his thirteenth goal. Jussi Jokinen drew the secondary helper on the play.

After being stymied by Luogno in the opening frame, the Oilers forged a 1-1 tie early in the second. Jordan Eberle got the goal, his eleventh, off a goal-mouth scramble, with Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz collecting the assists.

The Panthers countered just 1:49 later, when Brian Campbell's snap shot deflected off Matt Hendricks' stick and beat a startled Scrivens easily. Aaron Ekblad and Jokinen picked up the assists on Campbell's third of the campaign.

Florida appeared to tire a bit during the latter part of the second and to open the third, but the Cats got a big goal from Tomas Kopecky at 5:40 to go up by two. Scottie Upshall worked the puck to Derek MacKenzie behind the net and he fed Kopecky, who was waiting at the top of the crease, for his second of season.

The Oilers responded 32 seconds later to halve the deficit with a goal on a delayed penalty. Benoit Pouliot found the back of the net after Luongo made stops on Nikita Nikitin and Derek Roy.

Sean Bergenheim would put the game away with 4:32 left in regulation time. Tomas Fleischmann threw the puck into the Oilers zone after stealing it from Nail Yakupov. The puck bounced over the stick of Andrew Ference to Bergenheim who drove it by Scrivens for the clincher.

The Panthers, who are 4-1 on the road trip, will finish the arduous trek Tuesday night in Winnipeg before heading home to battle the Colorado Avalanche Thursday. The surging Panthers passed Toronto in the standings and remain one point behind the Boston Bruins, having played three fewer games, in the wild card chase.

Odds & Ends

  • Jimmy Hayes, Sean Bergenheim and Brian Campbell each tallied for the second straight game. Must be something about that crisp Alberta air.
  • The Cats did a fine job in holding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off the score sheet and to a single shot on goal. RNH had five assists in two games, both Edmonton wins, against Florida last season.
  • Dmitry Kulikov returned after missing the Calgary game with the fluberdeau while Aleksander Barkov did not. Brandon Pirri filled in for Barkov this time and finished with 3 shots on goal and a -1 rating in 15:07 TOI.
  • The Panthers are now a mighty 11-1 this season when leading after two periods.
  • Ben Scrivens finished with 23 saves and saw his record drop to 8-14-7. Scrivens had two shutouts in three starts against the Panthers coming into the game.
  • Jussi Jokinen's two assists puts him at 15 points in 19 career games against Edmonton.
  • In addition to his nifty helper on the eventual game-winner, Derek MacKenzie went 8-of-13 in the dot and had 5 hits.
  • The Oilers will stop by Sunrise on Saturday night to conclude the season series.
  • For more on the Cats' latest win, visit Copper and Blue (da ba dee da ba die).