The Florida Panthers hope that the combination they saw Tuesday night -- young talent up front and Roberto Luongo in net -- is the harbinger of better days to come.
Two rookies, Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri, scored in the shootout to back Luongo's goaltending and give the Panthers a 3-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center.
After Kyle Turris opened the tiebreaker by beating Luongo, Trocheck tied it with a slick deke before sliding the puck past Robin Lehner. Ottawa's Jason Spezza then missed the net before Pirri snapped a shot through Lehner's five-hole.
"The shootout win was important for us. The last three wins on the road trip weren't great," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said after his team ended a three-game slide. "The two young guys getting the goals, making nice moves, I think that was all positive."
Luongo, who made a number of spectacular saves among his 37 stops through 65 minutes, ended the game with a sweeping glove grab of Milan Michalek's backhander.
"We go over the shootout before the game," Luongo said. "That was one of the moves he likes to make. As soon as I saw him go to his backhand, I just slid hard across and he put it in my glove."
It was Florida's eighth win in 14 shootouts this season. Ottawa is 4-7 in tiebreakers.
All of the pre-shootout scoring took place during a span of 6:21 in the second half of the second period. Mark Stone and Clarke MacArthur gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead before Sean Bergenheim and Trocheck tied the game for Florida with goals 23 seconds apart.
"We had a lapse at the end of the second there for three or five minutes, but for the most part we had tons of opportunities," Turris said. "Luongo made some unbelievable saves to keep them in it."
Ottawa has lost nine of 10 and its hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs have all but disappeared. The Senators are eight points out of the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining.
The Senators, coming off a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, came out flying, taking seven of the game's first eight shots. Luongo got a break when Spezza's power-play blast from the top of the left circle hit the goal post 3:27 into the game, and he used his glove to rob Turris a half-minute later.
"Luongo made some big, big saves and kept it 0-0,'' Horachek said. "That was huge. They played [Monday] night, it should have been the other way around, them trying to find their legs. It was important we responded.''
Florida thought it had a goal at 7:57 when Bergenheim backhanded a loose puck into the net after Lehner stopped his shot. But referee Gord Dwyer immediately waved off the goal, saying he had blown his whistle.
Luongo finished the period with 20 saves, and Lehner made 10.
"When he's on, there's not much getting through," Pirri said.
Luongo kept the game scoreless early in the second period when he robbed Ottawa's Erik Karlsson from the lower right circle on a 2-on-1 rush with Spezza. But the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen got even at 11:34 when he set up the game's first goal.
Karlsson was part of a 4-on-2 rush when he took a pass from Turris in the right circle and quickly rifled a feed across the slot to Stone, who hit the wide-open left side of the net for his second goal of the season. The goal came on the Senators' 29th shot. The assist extended Karlsson's point streak to eight games.
MacArthur made it 2-0 at 16:11 when he got a piece of Patrick Wiercioch's power-play slapper from the left point and deflected it past Luongo for his 22nd goal.
But the Panthers came back to tie the game with their two quick goals.
Bergenheim got one that counted at 17:32, finishing off a feed by Brian Campbell with a one-timer from the right circle for his 15th goal. Trocheck tied it at 17:55 with his third when he beat Lehner with a wrister to cap a 2-on-1 rush with Scottie Upshall.
"That ends up being the difference in the game," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said.
Luongo robbed Turris with 2:21 left in regulation, and Lehner made perhaps the best of his 39 saves when he denied Trocheck with 15 seconds remaining. Each goaltender also made a brilliant stop in overtime; Luongo stopped Mark Methot all alone from 15 feet less than a minute into OT, and Lehner robbed Pirri from the right circle two minutes later.
"I thought we played a hell of a game," Lehner said. "I thought Luongo played a (heck) of a game. We had a few minutes in the second period where we got away from our structure and they capitalized on it. I think we regrouped and came out in the third and played solid."
Material from team media was used in this report.