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Panthers blank Sabres behind Luongo's 30 saves

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- There's just something about playing in Buffalo for Roberto Luongo.

The Florida Panthers goalie made 30 saves in a 2-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Friday. It was Luongo's third straight shutout in Buffalo.

"When do we come back?" he asked. "First shutout here last year, when I was with Vancouver, [Thomas] Vanek was here and he had a shot go off both posts and the red light came on, and they reviewed it, and it didn't go in. It's just one of those things where you're getting the bounces. I enjoy playing in this building and I'm having success. Maybe sometimes you get in another team's head or whatnot, but I just try to do my job and take the wins."

It was the 68th career shutout for Luongo, who passed Roy Worters for 13th place on the NHL all-time list.

"These individual accomplishments, I don't pay attention to them right now," said Luongo, who has two shutouts this season and four in his past five starts against the Sabres. "Once the season's over, once the career's over, you can reflect on these kinds of things. Right now there's only one goal in mind and that's to win some hockey games and try to get in the playoffs.

"All these accomplishments are nice, but they are things to be enjoyed once it's all said and done."

Luongo's toughest save Friday came 9:54 into the second period when he stopped a backhand shot from Tyler Ennis with his leg while seated on the ice.

"He's played well, he's focused," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "And Lou gets prepared for every game the same way and he's a veteran guy and he gets ready every game. He played a real good game tonight. He made three or four really good saves again tonight."

Brad Boyes gave the Panthers (17-10-9) a 1-0 lead at 3:29 of the first period. Boyes put a rebound of an Aleksander Barkov shot past Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth.

"The first period was great," Gallant said. "If we can play like that every period, we'd be real happy. ... The first period was real good, and after that I felt the game got a little bit sloppy, but it was good enough to win, and that's what we're all about."

Sean Bergenheim started the play that led to Boyes' seventh goal when he stole the puck from Sabres defenseman Tyson Strachan behind the net and passed to Barkov out front.

"I just straight fanned on the puck," Strachan said. "Put my head up just to kind of see where I was going to go with it, went to shoot it, and it wasn't there, and all of sudden it's in the back of our net. So that's a mental mistake."

Nick Bjugstad made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 11:51 of the first. Mike Weber took a penalty for tripping with 8:29 left in the period, and Bjugstad put a rebound of a Jimmy Hayes shot past Neuvirth 20 seconds later for his 14th goal.

"[Aaron] Ekblad made a great pass," Bjugstad said. "Hayes and I kind of have a set play there, kind of knew where he was going to throw it. We've had a similar goal where he throws it at the far pad. I jumped on it.

"There [are] certain situations where you know a guy doesn't have the opportunity to put a shot up high or a hard shot on, so [you've] got to be ready around the net. You know when they are coming sometimes."

Neuvirth made 31 saves.

"He made some real big saves for us," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "It could've been 3-0 or 4-0 that first period. But he held the fort for us pretty well and gave us a chance. We can't complain about our goaltending."

The Sabres (14-22-3) have lost three straight and seven of their past eight (1-6-1).

"We're not shooting enough," Nolan said. "In order to score, especially on top-end goaltenders, you've got to get some screens in front of them, you've got to throw some pucks from everywhere, and we didn't do it. The effort was there for the second and third, but we just blew the game in the first."

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