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Panthers spoil Luongo's return to South Florida

Saturday, 02.02.2008 / 12:15 AM / Game of the Night

By Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves, including one on Markus Naslund’s penalty shot in the final minute of overtime.
Roberto Luongo’s bid for a victory in his return to South Florida was foiled by the man who replaced him.

Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves, including one on Markus Naslund’s penalty shot in the final minute of overtime, then denied the Vancouver Canucks on all three of their attempts in the shootout, leading the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win Friday night at BankAtlantic Center.

"It's do or die; it's overtime so it's sudden death," Vokoun said of his stop on Naslund. "I just try to stay with the player. Shootouts are fun to win but tough to lose. It's always great when you win."

Luongo stopped 40 shots but was beaten by Nathan Horton in the shootout, and the Panthers erased three one-goal deficits to conclude a 2-1-1 homestand that precedes a five-game road trip.

"It was a big night," Florida center Stephen Weiss said. "A good crowd and a lot of emotion in the building. It was a fun night. You could just sense we were going to have a big game."

The 28-year-old Luongo played five seasons for the Panthers from 2000-06 and is the franchise career leader in wins (108), shutouts (26) and games played by a goaltender (317). He was shipped to Vancouver in a five-player trade on June 23, 2006, and earned a 4-3 overtime win over the Panthers at General Motors Place last year. This marked Luongo’s first visit back to his old stomping grounds.

"It's an unacceptable loss," Luongo said. "They're all tough. We had chances to win and we couldn't get another goal."

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Mason Raymond each scored to stake the Canucks to a lead, but Horton, Jozef Stumpel and Weiss answered for the Panthers, who last beat Vancouver on Oct. 20, 1999.

Vokoun was just breaking in for the Nashville Predators back then, but he has returned stability to Florida’s goaltending since being acquired in the offseason for three draft picks.

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With Naslund bearing down on him after being awarded a penalty shot with 46.6 seconds left in overtime, Vokoun stacked the pads to deny Vancouver’s captain and keep the game going. Vokoun then stopped Taylor Pyatt, Alexander Edler and Daniel Sedin in the shootout to secure the two points.

Horton skated down the right side on his attempt, then cut toward the net and beat ex-teammate Luongo with a shot just inside the left post.

"I think he thought I was going glove side, like I used to in practice, because the blocker side was open," Horton said.

With the loss, the Canucks fell to 2-8-1 since Jan. 10 and remained tied with the Nashville Predators for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

“We feel like we’re putting a good effort forward but not just coming out with the results right now,” said Raymond, who gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead 1:42 into the third when he slipped the puck between Vokoun’s pads from the slot.

Weiss knotted the score with 6:14 left in regulation, driving his 10th of the season over Luongo’s shoulder from the right circle.

"We're good buddies but we enjoy competing with each other," Weiss said. "I can give him a jab at the end of the season."

The Panthers outshot the Canucks 15-5 in the third period and had a late power play that carried into overtime, forcing Luongo to make several key saves.

It appeared the first period would end scoreless. But with the Canucks on a power play, Daniel Sedin struck for his team-leading 23rd goal with nine seconds remaining. He took a cross-crease pass from brother Henrik and beat Vokoun to the stick side, giving Vancouver a 1-0 lead.

Horton drew Florida even 5:04 into the second, but Henrik Sedin put the Canucks back in front at 13:03, converting a feed from Naslund. That lead lasted just 1:29 before a power-play goal by Stumpel tied the game at 2-2.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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