Panther Defeat Nucks on Luongo’s Return

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Kevin Woodley 

Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com

(ISN) – VANCOUVER — Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo enjoyed his first game back at Rogers Arena to face the Vancouver Canucks.

Luongo, who spent three days catching up with friends and former teammates, made 32 saves, and Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and an assist to lead the Panthers to a 3-1 win against the Canucks on Thursday.

After being named First Star, Luongo came out to salute the crowd and give his game stick away to a young fan, as he did so often during his time with the Canucks.

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Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com

Daniel Sedin beat Luongo 3:39 into the game, but the longtime Canucks goalie was perfect after that.

Luongo, who is 4-0-1 in his past five decisions, moved into a tie with Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek for 11th all-time with 389 career wins. He won 233 of those games during eight seasons in Vancouver before being traded back to Florida last March.

Luongo received a lengthy standing ovation after a video tribute during a television timeout seven minutes into the first period.

Then he did what he did so often in Vancouver: Shut the door on the opponent.

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Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com

Luongo got his left pad on two point-blank chances for good friend Alexandre Burrows in the opening minute of the second period, then threw out the right pad to rob Linden Vey on a backdoor power-play chance with 1:45 left in the second.

For all the focus on Luongo, Florida shut down Vancouver in the third period, limiting the Canucks to one shot during three straight power plays that included a 5-on-3 for 40 seconds. Burrows got a good look, but Luongo slid left to right to stop him in close. Luongo also made a nice save against Shawn Matthias, who was part of the Luongo trade, at 4:24.

Florida (18-11-9) is tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings, three points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ryan Miller made 27 saves for the Canucks (23-13-3), who lost in regulation for the second time in eight games (5-2-1).

Luongo didn’t have much of a chance on Sedin’s goal.

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Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com

A clearing attempt by former Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell was intercepted and sent down to Henrik Sedin behind the Panthers net. He passed to his brother in the slot for a wrist shot that caught Luongo moving to his right as the puck went past his glove on the left.

Huberdeau tied the game midway through the first period with his fifth goal. He was robbed by Miller’s left pad on a one-timer from the slot, but Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler knocked the rebound into his own net as he and Aleksander Barkov swung at the puck.

Barkov gave the Panthers the lead 7:10 into the second period. He won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Huberdeau, who tipped it back to rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad at the point for a hard slap shot that Barkov deflected past a screened Miller low on the glove side.

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Derek Cain Photography www.derekcainphotography.com

Huberdeau made it 3-1 on a breakaway with 3:17 left in the period after getting behind Vancouver defense with Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa headed to the bench for a change. Dmitry Kulikov’s pass out of his own end hit Huberdeau in stride, and Huberdeau beat Miller with a shot in tight over the glove and in off the seam of the crossbar and post.

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