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5 Takeaways: Luongo Exits Early as Panthers Fall to Hurricanes

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/23/18 Post Game Interviews

11/23/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Troy Brouwer and Mike Matheson

  • 01:15 •

RALEIGH, N.C. - For the second time in three games, the Florida Panthers lost a star.

After losing second-line center Vincent Trocheck to a fractured ankle earlier in the week, the Panthers saw starting goaltender Roberto Luongo exit early with a lower-body injury in a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at PNC Arena.

Luongo left late in the first period after stretching out to make a pad save. Jordan Martinook scored on the ensuring rebound - the first of three goals he's post en route to his first NHL hat trick. In net, Hurricanes goaltender Curtis McElhinney made 34 saves for his third-straight win.

"We couldn't find a way to score when we needed a goal," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "Give McElhinney some credit, he played well."

The Panthers (8-9-3) kept pace with the Hurricanes in terms of possession, finishing with 57 shot attempts to Carolina's 59 at 5-on-5 play. But while the Canes went 1-for-3 with the extra attacker, Florida didn't convert on its lone opportunity, ending a streak of 10 games with at least one power play goal. Since Nov. 1, the Panthers have gone 14-for-39 with the man advantage.

"I think that's one area that we need to get better at, though, is scoring 5-on-5," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "We've been relying on our power play a lot lately. It's been able to win us games, which is great. You always want to have a good power play, but we need to be able to generate more offense at 5-on-5."

Here are five takeaways from Friday's loss in Carolina…

1. LUONGO LEAVES EARLY

For the second time this season, the Panthers held their breath watching Luongo go down.

In the final minutes of the first period on Friday night, Luongo sprawled out to make a huge save on forward Lucas Wallmark with his left pad before Martinook swooped in and scored on the ensuing rebound to put Carolina up 1-0 at 19:22. Immediately, you knew something was wrong.

After being tended to by trainers for several moments, Luongo skated off the ice under his own power but did not return. As of right now, he is suffering from what is being described as a lower-body injury, which makes sense given the extension that went into his save on Wallmark's shot.

"We're not sure of the extent of Lu's injury," Panthers winger Troy Brouwer said. "We're hopeful things are positive for him. For us, learn from our mistakes tonight. Learn and get better as a team needs to do."

Limited to just 33 starts in 2017-18, Luongo has already dealt with an injury once this season, suffering a knee injury during the season opener on Oct. 6 that sidelined him for nearly a full month. Entering tonight's game, the 39-year-old owned a 4-3- record with a .902 save percentage.

"Obviously, the team is pretty down when you see Lu go down again," Boughner said.

2. REIMER IN RELIEF

With Luongo unable to continue, backup James Reimer entered the game in relief.

In just over two periods, Reimer stopped 26 of 28 shots, keeping the Panthers within striking distance down to the wire. Enter tonight's game, the 30-year-old had won each of his last two starts, stopping 67 of 73 shots during that span, good enough for a .918 save percentage.

"Reims came in and he was fine," Boughner said. "He gave us a chance."

Filling in for Luongo is nothing new for Reimer, as he already made seven appearances earlier this season during the starter's first injury-induced absence. When Luongo was sidelined last season, he started 18 of 19 games, going 9-6-2 during that stretch with a .924 save percentage.

In Luongo's absence, Reimer is likely to start on Saturday against Chicago at home.

3. BROUWER COUNTY

When Brouwer inked a one-year deal with the Panthers this summer, the 33-year-old veteran forward said he wanted to prove that he still had plenty left in the tank after having the final two years of his contract being bought out by the Calgary Flames.

At this point, it's safe to say he was right.

Brouwer scored his sixth goal of the season on Friday night, taking a beautiful pass from Mike Matheson before ending McElhinney's shutout bid with a pin-point wrist shot from the slot that cut Carolina's lead to 3-1 at 14:04 of the third period.

"There's a few things that didn't go our way tonight, and we're not celebrating a win as the result," Brouwer said of the loss.

Video: FLA@CAR: Brouwer scores on breakaway

Brouwer's six goals this season match his total during 76 games with Calgary in 2017-18.

4. STREAK ENDS

All good things come to an end.

Held off the scoresheet for the first time since Oct. 11, Mike Hoffman saw his career-best and franchise-record 17-game point streak come to an end on Friday night. Hoffman's streak was the longest by a Panther since Pavel Bure reached 13 games during the 1999-2000 campaign.

Still, despite it coming to an end, Hoffman's streak is worth a second look.

Acquired for a few draft picks in an offseason trade with San Jose - which picked him up from Ottawa just hours earlier - Hoffman is just the fifth player in NHL history to accumulate a point streak of at least 17 games in his first season with a new club. During his streak, he posted 10 goals and 20 points to climb to the top of the Panthers leaderboard in both categories.

Hoffman's streak stands as the longest in the NHL this season.

5. HOME SWEET HOME

No more hotels and no more room service - it's time for some home cooking.

After wrapping up their six-game road trip on Friday night in Carolina, the Panthers will head South to kick off a season-long, eight-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at BB&T Center. Of Florida's last 13 games, 11 have been played away from home, including a week-long trip to Helsinki, Finland for the 2018 NHL Global Series.

"It's a quick turnaround," Brouwer said. "We've had a little success at home in the last little while, when we have been a home. We're looking to draw off that."

The last time the Panthers were back in Sunrise, they swept a three-game homestand against Ottawa, Edmonton and the New York Islanders, winning those games by a combined score of 13-4 from Nov. 8-11. A team that thrives in front of the home crowd, they set franchise records for longest winning streak (8) and wins (27) within their friendly confines in 2017-18.

This season, Florida is off to a 3-3-1 start at home.

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