Panthers party like it's 1999 as Luongo tames Predators 2-1 in Nashville
Lu's heroics make rare Huberdeau goal stand up as the winner
The Florida Panthers checked off a few boxes with a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Despite getting badly out-shot (33-16), the Cats ended a nine-game drought in Nashville, winning in Music City for the first time since December 11, 1999.
Florida got its wonky road power play to click for just the fourth time this season, with Jonathan Huberdeau scoring a rare goal to put the Cats ahead by two.
The Panthers upped their winning streak to four games, the longest stretch of consecutive success the team has enjoyed since a five-game run in December of 2013.
Quinton Howden opened the scoring at 14:59 of the first period by taking a fortuitous carom off the boards to break in on Pekka Rinne before calmly finding the back of the net. Connor Brickley and Willie Mitchell collected the assists on Howden's third of the season.
The Panthers held a 7-5 advantage in shots after the opening twenty minutes and could have led by more at this point if not for the miraculous work of Rinne to deny Jaromir Jagr his 731th career goal.
The Nashville keeper stymied Jagr with an unreal stick save, not once, but twice, as the puck deflected off the post after the initial attempt, forcing another stop with the big twig to keep it from crossing the goal line.
Rinne would get help from a pipe again later, as Reilly Smith rang it loudly after stealing the puck deep in the Nashville zone.
The Predators came out determined to turn the tables on the visitors in the second period, and were doing just that until a delay of game call on Shea Weber gave the Panthers their only power play chance of the night.
After controlling the puck down low, Aleksander Barkov regained the biscuit after a broken play and fed Huberdeau again and this time the goal-starved winger lit the lamp for his second of the campaign. Steven Kampfer drew the secondary assist on the man-advantage goal.
Nashville would reply later in the period, with the goal going to Roman Josi. With the Predators on a rush, Josi dropped the puck back to Craig Smith and his shot struck the defenseman, who smartly continued driving to the net, before sailing by a helpless Luongo. Colin Wilson also picked up an assist on goal number five for Josi.
The Panthers survived the rest of the second and Luongo stopped all 11 Predator shots he faced in the third period to nurse the tenuous lead to a two-point conclusion.
Cody Hodgson almost forced overtime with 34 seconds left, but his deflection of a Seth Jones pass caught the cross bar instead. The play went to review and the proper call was made.
With wins in the first three of the this five-game road trip, the Cats have a great chance to add some icing with stops in Columbus and New Jersey still to come.
Nimravidae & Barbourofelidae
- Jonathan Huberdeau's game-winner was his first goal since a 3-2 loss to Buffalo on November 12 , snapping an eight-game drought.
- The power-play marker improved Florida's numbers away from the BB&T Center to 4-for-37. The Cats' perfect 1-for-1 performance moved them up a spot to 28th in the league in road PP percentage.
- Roberto Luongo's 32-save gem gave him his tenth win of the year. Brother Louie lowered his GAA to 2.24 and saw his save percentage rise to .928.
- Logan Shaw tagged back into the lineup in place of veteran Shawn Thornton. Shaw finished the game with two shots, a block, a hit and an even rating.
- Defenseman Shea Weber had a game-high five shots on goal, but the puck he put over the glass in the second period ended up proving costly for the Predators.
- Aleksander Barkov has six points (3G/3A) since returning from the injury to his hand that cost him ten games.
- The win moved Florida into a three-way tie, with Boston and New Jersey, for the second Eastern Conference wildcard. The Bruins have two games in hand on both the Panthers and Devils.
- Click here for the advanced stats breakdown from war-on-ice.
- Our friends at On The Forecheck have more on the battle between the Cats and their prehistoric relatives./
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)