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Panthers rout Hurricanes, Luongo gets 400th win

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers did their part to stay in contention for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Vincent Trocheck had two goals and an assist, Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and an assist, Roberto Luongo earned his 400th career victory and the Panthers routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 at BB&T???Center on Thursday.

The Panthers (36-27-15)???are six points behind the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division; the teams are also competing for a wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Bruins edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, and a loss by the Panthers in regulation would have eliminated them from playoff contention.

Florida is three points behind the Ottawa Senators, who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime Thursday. Ottawa and Detroit each has five games remaining; the Bruins and Panthers each have four.

"I???thought we played a good game from start to finish and we competed,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We've got to take care of our own business. We didn't get any help again tonight, but we've got to take care of our own business."

Jagr's two points moved into a tie for fourth with Ron Francis on the NHL's all-time point list with 1,798.

Luongo, the active leader among goaltenders in games played, wins, shutouts and saves, made 31 saves and became the 11th goalie to reach 400 career victories. Luongo had lost his previous two starts, including a 3-2 loss at Boston on Tuesday in which the Panthers squandered a 2-1 third-period lead to go from moving to within two points of the Bruins to being on the brink of elimination.

"I???don't take it for granted,"???Luongo said. "I'm blessed to have played this long in the NHL???and doing something that I love. But at the same time, I would have liked to get it maybe a few games earlier and maybe get a few more points in the standings. Right now it's not something that I'm really focused on, but I'm blessed to have been able to play in this League for so long."

"I'm just really happy for him,"???captain Willie Mitchell said. "He played so great in the first period. As much as you talk about it and try to move on it was an emotional loss in Boston and it took us a little bit to find our legs. Lou held us in there and then we got going. It was a nice win to put on the board and move on."

Brandon Pirri continued his scoring surge with his fifth goal in six games; it was his 19th in his past 26 games.

Mitchell scored a goal and Jonathan Huberdeau had two assists.

"I???repeat it every day you guys ask me, this is a very talented team,"???Jagr said. "If we play the right way, we can beat anybody. But it's not over yet. We knew it before this game. We have to win our games and hope for a miracle."

The Panthers began their season-ending five-game homestand by completing a three-game season sweep of the Hurricanes.

Chris Terry scored for Carolina (28-38-11) with 1:19 left in regulation, allowing the Hurricanes to avoid their third consecutive shutout loss to the Panthers. Florida has never shut out an opponent three consecutive times.

Terry's power-play goal extended his point streak to four games (2-2-4). Anton Khudobin, who stopped 106 of 109 shots while going 3-0 against Florida last season, made 29 saves.

Florida tied its season-high with six goals and skated off with its most lopsided victory of the season. It was Carolina's most lopsided loss.

"A tough season series with these guys," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters.

The Panthers' homestand continues with back-to-back games this weekend against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens before a rematch against the Bruins next Thursday.

Despite Carolina having an 11-2 shot advantage in the first 10:36, the first period was evenly played and scoreless until Mitchell gave Florida a 1-0 lead with 49.4 seconds left by scoring his third goal of the season.

Mitchell scored off a faceoff when his shot changed direction after hitting Terry's skate.

"We came ready to play and obviously it went downhill after that,"?????????Carolina captain Eric Staal said. "We had a couple chances early that Luongo made some good saves on. From there it didn't get very pretty."

The Panthers blew the game open with three second-period goals, continuing a season-long trend. Florida began the night with 84 goals in the second period, 25 more than in the first or third.

Pirri scored first at 5:01 after Jagr carried the puck down the right wing. When Jagr lost control and the puck slid between two Carolina payers, Pirri came over from the middle of the ice, shot while spinning around and beat Khudobin between the legs.

Jagr scored his fifth goal in 16 games with the Panthers since coming over in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26 at 13:01 when he one-timed Barkov's beautiful pass from behind the net. Barkov made it 4-0 at 16:27 off a 2-on-1 with a backhand rebound after Khudobin had stopped his wrist shot.

"That line [Jagr-Barkov-Huberdeau]?????????has been outstanding and they're working hard,"?????????Gallant said. "It's fun to watch them."

Trocheck's two goals came 38 seconds apart in the third period. He scored at 6:07 with a wrist shot from the high slot and at 6:45 on a rebound in front of the net.

"It was a tough loss against Boston; that's who we're chasing right now,"?????????Trocheck said. "But you can't really dwell on that in hockey now. You have to have short-term memory loss. We spent the night thinking about it and going over our shifts, but the next day we kind of just had to forget about it and move on. We've got five games here at home and we went into it tonight thinking that we're still in this race. We've just got to keep winning games and play our game, and that's what we did tonight."

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell played in his 300th consecutive regular season game. He has appeared in all 290 games since joining the Panthers for the 2011-12 season.

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