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5 Takeaways: Luongo Shuts Out Habs, Panthers Win Seventh Straight at Home

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

3/8/18 Post Game Interviews

3/8/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Roberto Luongo and Nick Bjugstad

  • 01:15 •

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo stopped all 40 shots he faced on Thursday night to lead the Florida Panthers to their seventh straight win at home in a 5-0 shutout over the Montreal Canadiens at BB&T Center.

"He's been amazing," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said of Luongo. "He's been laser focused. I've said it before, he's the backbone of our team. I think when he's kicking the way he is, it's a fun thing to watch."

Jonathan Huberdeau provided Luongo with the only goal support he would need on the night, scoring his career-high 21st goal of the season to put the Panthers up 1-0 at 16:16 of the first period. Huberdeau's game-winning goal came on the power play, where Florida has been red-hot as of late, converting on 15-of-48 of their chances (31.3 percent) over their last 15 games.

Video: MTL@FLA: Huberdeau buries Trocheck's feed for PPG

"That power play has been great all year," Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad said. "You've got all different ways to score, and tonight it was Huby [Huberdeau]. That totally changed the game there. It was a big goal."

The Panthers (33-25-7) extended their point streak to eight games and have won 14 of their last 18 contests overall. They now sit two points behind Columbus for the second wild card spot and three points behind New Jersey for the first wild card spot into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Florida also has three games in hand on both clubs.

"We know what we have to do at home to get where we need to be," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "These aren't easy games to play. There's no easy games this time of year and every point is so crucial."

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's win in Sunrise…

1. DADONOV PILING UP POINTS

Evgenii Dadonov recorded a goal and an assist on Thursday night, earning his fifth straight multi-point game. After receiving a no-look, cross-ice pass from Yandle, Dadonov blasted a one-timer from the right circle to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead at 1:23 of the third period. The goal was Dadonov's 21st of the season, moving him into a tie with Huberdeau for third on the team. Since Feb. 12, the 28-year-old winger has been playing absolutely out of his mind, recording 20 points (10-10-20) in 13 games - the second-most in the NHL during that span. After returning from Russia's KHL to sign a three-year deal with the Panthers this summer, Dadonov somehow been ever better than advertised, posting 51 points (21-30-51) in 57 games. "Tonight, obviously, Daddy [Dadonov] had a good goal and Barky [Aleksander Barkov] is setting everyone up," Bjugstad said. "Those two kind of do everything. They're fun to play with."

Video: MTL@FLA: Dadonov nets one-timer off Yandle's feed

2. BJUGY THE BEAST

After recording his first NHL hat trick on Tuesday in Tampa, Bjugstad picked up right where he left off on Thursday night against the Canadiens. Less than two minutes into the second period, Bjugstad took a page out of Barkov's book of tricks, receiving a pass in the slot before utilizing a smooth backhand to slip the puck past goaltender Charlie Lindgren and put Florida up 2-0. Bjugstad has been one of the team's hottest offensive players recently, posting four goals and four assists over his last five games. "It's been a huge improvement," Boughner said of the strides Bjugstad has made this season. "I love the way he's playing. The sky's the limit for a guy like [him] now." What's more impressive, however, is how Bjugstad's goals are being scored. His 15 goals this season have all come at even-strength, which is tied for second on the Panthers. He also has the most goals among players that have yet to register a power play goal. With five more points, Bjugstad will surpass the career-high 43 he registered in 2014-15. "We're rolling here, we've got a few more games at home, and we need to use that to our advantage," Bjugstad said. 

Video: MTL@FLA: Bjugstad sneaks backhander past Lindgren

3. YANDLE MAKES HISTORY

Yandle set a new franchise record on Thursday night. With three assists against the Canadiens, Yandle has posted 20 points over his last 18 games, moving past Sandis Ozolinsh (18, 2001-02) and Robert Svehla (18, 1999-2000) for the most points by a Panthers defenseman in an 18-game span in franchise history. It's kind of an oddball statistic, but it's a good way of showing just how consistent the 31-year-old has been when it comes to providing offense from the blue line this season. "Probably a lot of it is getting to play with Barky," Yandle said. "His line, they've been great. I think we've done a pretty good job in our zone, getting out of our end and letting those guys go to work in the offensive zone." The NHL's active ironman (he's played in 698 consecutive games), Yandle also ranks first among Florida's defensemen in points (45), assists (39) and power-play points (15), while leading the club in total ice time (1599:36). "Just a good hockey IQ," Boughner said of Yandle. "He calms the game down. He doesn't rush plays."

4. HALEY HELPS THE CAUSE

Micheal Haley has worked hard to prove that he can do damage in games when his gloves are on as well as off. The NHL's leader with 19 fights this season - seven more than the next-highest player - Haley did more damage with the puck than his punches on Thursday night, scoring on a one-timer from just below the left circle to extend Florida's lead to 3-0 at 2:44 of the second period. The goal was Haley's career-high third of the season and his eighth overall point. The 31-year-old enforcer has been a key role player for the Panthers this season, firing up teammates with fights and a strong bench presence. But he's also been far more than a fighter, as his mistake-free brand of hockey has become a staple of the team's fourth line. Boughner said Haley's goal was important for the Panthers to pull away in the second period. "We talk about momentum shifts, getting the lead, playing with the lead and being composed with the lead," he said. "We did that after Louie settled us down with a couple big saves." 

Video: MTL@FLA: Haley extends the lead with sweet one-timer

5. LUONGO GOES THE DISTANCE

Hockey's latest version of Benjamin Button, Luongo continues to age backwards for the Panthers. The 38-year-old goaltender stopped all 40 shots he faced on Thursday night to earn his second shutout of the season and 75th of his career. Since returning from a groin injury that kept him out of action for more than two months, Luongo is 7-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage and one shutout. "Good for Lou getting another shutout," Bjugstad said. "He doesn't seem to be getting any older." Luongo almost lost his shutout twice against the Habs, but an inconclusive goal call - the puck wasn't seen crossing the line - in the first and a successful goaltender interference challenge in the third helped his scoresheet remain clean. "I don't know about the first one in the first period and how close that one was or was not," a relieved Luongo said. "You get a couple breaks like that. It's nice to get them once a while." 

Video: MTL@FLA: Luongo gloves down Petry's breakaway attempt

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