BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Roberto Luongo did his part to keep the Florida
Panthers in the game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Marcus Nilson made sure Luongo's 41-save performance would not go
Nilson's goal with 10:27 left in the third period secured the Panthers' 1-1
tie against Buffalo on Wednesday night.
``Ah, he's used to that,'' Nilson said with a chuckle, referring to how many
shots Luongo usually faces. ``He gives us a chance to win every night. And you
can't ask for more than that. He's been outstanding the whole year.''
Luongo improved to 17-25-11, and 6-5-4 in games in which he faces at least
It's not the saves that matter to Luongo, it's the standings that count. The
10th-place Panthers moved a point ahead of Atlanta and nine back of Montreal,
the current holders of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
``If we want to make the playoffs, everybody in this locker room has got to
step it up, or else we've got no hope,'' Luongo said.
Sabres tough-guy Eric Boulton was the only one to beat him, scoring his
first goal in 55 games, dating to Feb. 21, 2003.
Buffalo had its four-game winning streak snapped.
``We didn't have the killer instinct around the net we've had recently,''
center Daniel Briere said. ``Give credit to Luongo. He played well. But it's
one of those nights where the puck didn't want to go in for us.''
There haven't been many of those, lately.
Coming off Monday's 7-2 win over Atlanta, Buffalo entered having scored 21
goals in three games, the team's best stretch in more than 10 years.
The Sabres' power-play unit particularly lacked cohesion. After converting
on 13 of 40 chances, Buffalo failed to capitalize despite enjoying the game's
first-seven opportunities. The Sabres finished 0-for-7.
``When you miss so many chances to score, it's going to bite you back,''
said Briere, who failed to register a point after recording four goals and five
assists in five games.
The ninth-place Sabres are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, and are within
three points of Montreal.
The game turned in the third period shortly after the Sabres killed off a
high-sticking penalty to Alexei Zhitnik.
With the Panthers still pressing, Buffalo goalie Mika Noronen dived across
the crease to foil Kristian Huselius, and the rebound dribbled into the slot
where Sabres forward Taylor Pyatt failed to clear it.
Nilson got to the puck and snapped it past Noronen, who had slid out of
Boulton opened the scoring 4:17 in on Buffalo's fourth shot.
Taking Adam Mair's soft feed off the boards, Boulton cut up the left side
and got off a bad-angle shot that Luongo stopped with his right pad. The
rebound went directly back to Boulton, who slapped it in off of Luongo's arm.
``I don't know, Eric Boulton, what a goal-scorer,'' Luongo said, shaking his
head. ``It was a lucky goal, but after that I shut the door and that was
Did he ever.
Luongo, fourth in the NHL with a 93.1 save percentage, was particularly
sharp in the second period when he stopped all 22 shots directed at him.
His best stops came during a Sabres power play with four minutes left in the
Luongo lost his stick but used his right arm to stop Chris Drury from the
doorstep. The rebound came back to Dmitri Kalinin at the point, who fired a
shot that Luongo deflected with his blocker.
Noronen, who stopped 22 shots, made his best saves in overtime.
He got a shoulder on Mike Van Ryn's hard slapper from the right circle with
46 seconds left. Noronen then held his ground to foil Huselius, who came out
from behind the net.