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Panthers, Luongo top Predators for fourth in row

by Robby Stanley /

NASHVILLE -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo made 32 saves to help the Florida Panthers defeat the Nashville Predators 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

The Panthers (12-9-4) have won four consecutive games, including three straight on the road, where they are 6-4-2.

"You want to get on a bit of a roll and get some points," Luongo said. "I think, especially this road trip, we've had some tough tests and we've played some good hockey as a team. We've won some gritty road games. That's the type of hockey when we play here, and that's the way we win."

Florida blocked 21 Nashville shots.

"We've done a good job I think as far as our systems the last few games," Luongo said. "We're really not giving up any breakaways or 2-on-1s, stuff that we were seeing a little bit a few weeks ago. When we do that, it gives ourselves a chance. Even if they get a 3-on-2 or 4-on-3, it's a bit different than a 2-on-1 and stuff like that. Guys have been working hard and blocking shots and stuff like that. That's what it takes to win hockey games. You've got to pay the price for your team, and we're doing that right now."

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made 14 saves. The Predators (13-8-4) are 8-3-2 at home and 2-5-1 in their past eight games.

Quinton Howden gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 14:59 of the first period on a wrist shot from the slot. The puck caromed strangely off the boards, which allowed Howden to get around Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm and shoot it past Rinne for his third goal.

"I think I got a fortunate bounce," Howden said. "It hit a stanchion, and the [defenseman] kind of turned the wrong way on it. Lucky bounce, but I made sure I connected."

Jonathan Huberdeau gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead at 11:24 of the second period on a power play. Huberdeau set up in the slot and one-timed a pass from forward Aleksander Barkov past Rinne for his second goal.

"It felt good, but especially with a win like that," Huberdeau said. "We won a close game. In the third, they were all over us I think. [Luongo] made some big saves. It's two points that you need to have, and I'm fortunate that I could help the team."

The Predators have killed 57.9 percent of penalties in the past seven games.

"Tonight I think we could've been in better position," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We ran out of position a little bit, and we got caught in front of the net. The penalty kill is moving around. It's never just one thing. Sometimes it's your pressure, sometimes it's coverage. It's different things."

Nashville defenseman Roman Josi scored to make it 2-1 at 17:46 of the second period. Forward Craig Smith took a shot on the rush, and the puck bounced off Josi past Luongo for his fifth goal.

The Predators had a chance to tie the game late in the third period on a shot by forward Cody Hodgson, but the puck went off the crossbar and kicked away from the goal line, which was confirmed by video review after play was stopped.

"I wasn't sure [if the puck was in]," Luongo said. "I didn't feel like it was in, and then I looked at a couple of our guys and they were saying that it wouldn't go. We got a bit unlucky on the first goal, but got lucky there at the end, so we'll take it."

Nashville forward Mike Fisher missed the game with a lower-body injury and will be out at least the next three games. Forward Calle Jarnkrok filled Fisher's role on the second line.

"We certainly miss [Fisher]," Laviolette said. "He's a big part of our team from on-ice and in the locker room, but with that there's the old cliché that there's always opportunity for somebody else to make the most of it. This is a great spot for [Jarnkrok]. He's been in a position where he's, I think, watched and learned and has gained some experience over the last year-plus. Now he's in a position where he actually gets to take down the minutes on the power play and the big faceoffs. To this point, he's done a really nice job."

Florida plays at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday; Nashville plays at the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

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