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Tlusty scores twice to lead Hurricanes past Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo's first appearance against the Carolina Hurricanes in more than five years isn't one he'll remember fondly. At the other end, Anton Khudobin enjoyed another successful night against the Florida Panthers.

Khudobin made 35 saves for his third career shutout, first this season, to help the Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory against the Panthers at BB&T?Center on Thursday. Carolina completed a three-game season sweep of Florida, and Khudobin was in net for all three games.

"He's been playing so well all year,"???Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "I???know the score was 3-0 tonight, but we still make it interesting, make some mistakes, but he's there to make up for it. He actually made some real timely saves tonight."

Khudobin's previous shutout came almost exactly one year earlier, a 2-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on March 31, 2013, as a member of the Boston Bruins. His other shutout came as a member of the Minnesota Wild, on Jan. 16, 2011.

His best save against Florida came in the final 15 seconds of the second period when he stopped Jesse Winchester on a breakaway.

"Their goalie played really well, and we didn't find the recipe to score on him,"???Panthers left wing Tomas Fleischmann said. "He was top-notch. We had the chances, and he was outstanding. Tonight we didn't have much puck luck."

Jiri Tlusty scored twice for Carolina. With nine games remaining, the Hurricanes are seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second of two Eastern Conference wild-card spots for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Luongo, whose previous game against Carolina was Feb. 3, 2009, as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, left the game after the first period as the result of an upper-body injury.

Luongo was injured with 7:12 left in the first period when Hurricanes forward Radek Dvorak crashed into him. He didn't return to the Florida bench for the final two periods and was replaced by Dan Ellis, who was a backup for Carolina last season.

Panthers coach Peter Horachek had no update on Luongo's condition after the game.

"I had an idea something was going down with Louie and just to be ready,"???Ellis said. "They told me I was going in there. It's never a fun situation because you know your partner … something might not be good with him. That's the job, and you have to be ready when they call you."

Dvorak, who is second on Florida's all-time list for games played, came in on a rush and collided with Luongo after being pushed from behind by defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

Dvorak raised his left arm before hitting Luongo, and the impact knocked the goalie down. Luongo remained on the ice for a few seconds but stayed in the game.

Dvorak was assessed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.

"A lot of friends in the stands, but that's part of the game,"???said Dvorak, who had about two dozen family members and friends in attendance. "I can't control that. Obviously, you want to finish the game because you want to play in front of your family, in front of your friends, but sometimes you have a little bit of bad luck. But the thing is we got two points after the game, which is more important for us.

"It was not intentional. With speed like that, it's impossible to stop. You just need a little push from somebody and next thing you know you go through the net with the goalie. You never want to hit the goalie. It's the last thing on your mind. You don't want to hurt anybody out there. I???made the shot and then I was driving like 100 miles per hour to the net and then I got a little push. Next thing I???knew I was in the net with Louie, but it was not intentional at all.

"That's not my style. I???never did that in my life. That's what happened. It's a hockey game and things happen out there. Things happen quick sometimes."

Jeff Skinner scored the other Carolina goal.

Tlusty had two great chances to get his second career hat trick, but was denied by his former teammate.

"The one I kind of got it from the side and I wanted to put in on my backhand, and Elly just robbed me there,"?????????Tlusty said. "It kind of stung, but the most important thing is that we got the W and we kind of have a little looser feeling in the dressing room. We all know where we are, but we are just playing for each other."

Tlusty scored the only goal Luongo allowed off a 2-on-1 with Eric Staal. After taking a cross-ice feed from Staal, Tlusty held on to the puck until Luongo and defenseman Brian Campbell went down before firing it into the open net.

"[Staal's pass] hit Campbell's shaft, and it was kind of bouncy,"?????????Tlusty said. "First of all, I wanted to pass back to Staalsy, and [Campbell] kind of closed me off there. I?????????just found a way to shoot the puck. That was the only play I?????????could do there."

Luongo ended up with 11 saves on 12 shots, facing only one shot after Dvorak crashed into him. Ellis stopped 18 of 20 shots he faced.

Florida had a three-minute power play as the result of that play, after Gudbranson's roughing penalty expired, but did not manage a single shot on goal.

"That's great,"?????????Khudobin said. "You expect that maybe sometimes from your penalty-killers. If you're never going to have a shot on goal, it's thanks to them. We stayed tall, that's the most important. We had to do that consistently."

Tlusty made it 2-0 at 2:30 of the second period. Andrei Loktionov's shot from the right circle was deflected and bounced to the left of the net, where Tlusty was waiting to put it home.

The game marked the third this season in which Tlusty scored two goals. He also did it against the New York Islanders on Oct. 19 and against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 21.

Skinner made it 3-0 at 5:46 of the second with his team-leading 28th goal. Ellis stopped Patrick Dwyer's shot on a 2-on-1, but he couldn't control the rebound. Dwyer got the puck behind the net and fed Skinner, standing alone at the side of the net.

The three-goal cushion was more than enough for Khudobin.

"It's always good when you didn't get scored on in a game,"?????????Khudobin said. "But the most important is we just got the W."

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