Returning to the arena he called home for five seasons, Roberto Luongo was greeted by some old friends – the goal posts.
Luongo made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the slumping Florida Panthers hit six posts Thursday night in a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
After the game, Luongo was asked about the help from the posts.
“Just great positioning, my friend,” he said.
Luongo, making his second start in Florida since the Panthers traded him to Vancouver in June 2006, had about 20 friends and family members in the stands.
Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen scored second-period goals on Tomas Vokoun, who was making his 20th consecutive start for the Panthers.
“Obviously, the best player on the ice tonight was Roberto,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He played well, a couple of times he got help from his posts, but that’s part of being in great position. We were able to score three against a goaltender that’s been real good this year.”
Vokoun stopped 32 shots, but his teammates continued to struggle offensively. The Panthers, who are winless in their last five, set a franchise with their 12th consecutive game with two goals or less. Florida has scored a total of 13 goals during that stretch. Coach Peter DeBoer saw the six posts as a step in the right direction.
“We hadn’t even been creating chances before,” DeBoer said. “At least we got some chances, we hit some posts, and hopefully that’s a step in the right direction.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Ottawa 6 Washington 5; Dallas 3 Calgary 1; Edmonton 3 Los Angeles 2 (SO); Carolina 4 Buffalo 3 (OT); Boston 5 Tampa Bay 4; and San Jose 3 Detroit 2 (SO).
At Sunrise, Fla., Ryan Kesler added a power-play goal in the third period for the Canucks, 3-3 on the first leg of an NHL-record 14-game trip. Alexander Edler had two assists, while Henrik Sedin, second in the NHL in scoring, had one assist.
“I think it’s a win more than anything,” Luongo said. “I wanted to make sure we got back to .500 on this road trip. It’s a good team effort tonight.”
In addition to the six posts, the Panthers also wasted a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity when they were penalized for having too many men on the ice.
But DeBoer said he was much happier with his team’s performance than after Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss at Carolina. After that game, general manager Randy Sexton called the team’s performance “brutal.”
“I didn’t have any issue with our effort,” DeBoer said. “I thought our guys came out, stuck to the game plan and gave us what they had. We obviously didn’t score and didn’t win, so you don’t take much consolation in that. But I thought we responded the right way after our last effort.”
Senators 6 Capitals 5
At Ottawa, Chris Phillips and Alex Kovalev scored in the third period, and Jason Spezza had a goal and two assists in the first in the Senators’ victory over Washington.
Chris Neil, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson also scored for Ottawa, which handed the Capitals their second straight loss after a team-record 14-game winning streak.
Alexander Semin had a hat trick, while Tomas Fleischmann and Jeff Schultz also scored for Washington.
Stars 3 Flames 1
At Calgary, Jamie Benn scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and Marty Turco made 33 saves for Dallas.
Mike Ribeiro scored twice for Dallas, tying it at 1 with a power-play goal late in the second and icing it with an empty-netter directly off a faceoff.
Jarome Iginla scored his 25th goal for the Canucks.
Oilers 3 Kings 2 (SO)
At Los Angeles, Lubomir Visnovsky scored in the 10th round of a shootout after Edmonton blew a two-goal lead in the third period, and the Oilers beat the Kings to snap a franchise-record 11-game road losing streak.
Denis Grebeshkov and Dustin Penner scored in regulation and Jeff Deslauriers made 41 saves for Edmonton, which won for the fourth time in its last 28 games.
Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth scored for Los Angeles, which is winless in two following a club-record nine-game winning streak.
Hurricanes 4 Sabres 3 (OT)
At Raleigh, N.C., Sergei Samsonov scored 1:47 into overtime for the Hurricanes’ fourth straight victory – and Buffalo’s sixth loss in row.
Brandon Sutter had a goal and two assists, and Stephane Yelle and Ray Whitney also scored to helped give Carolina coach Paul Maurice his 400th career.
Derek Roy scored twice, and Jochen Hecht added a goal for Buffalo.
Bruins 5 Lightning 4
At Tampa, Fla., Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic scored two goals apiece, helping Boston beat the Lightning for its first three-game winning streak in more than six weeks.
Miroslav Satan also scored for the Bruins. Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie each scored two goals for Tampa Bay.
Sharks 3 Red Wings 2 (SO)
At Detroit, Patrick Marleau scored the lone goal in a shootout, and Evgeni Nabokov made a career-high 50 saves for San Jose.
Joe Thornton and Dwight Helminen scored in regulation for the Western Conference-leading Sharks. Johan Franzen and Jason Williams scored for Detroit.