FLA - PP - J. Winchester (9), PP - D. Kulikov (7) BUF - NONE
SUNRISE — (NHL.com) - The script couldn't have been written any better for Roberto Luongo's return to the Florida Panthers.
In his first start since being traded from the Vancouver Canucks back to the Panthers, Luongo made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and Florida beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 at BB&T Center on Friday night.
"It was nice, a great reception from the start and I thought the boys played extremely well...We're a really fast team. I was impressed by the speed that we generated. The future is very promising."
- Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo.
1. Lu's Return: Leading up to the game all eyes were on #1 between the pipes and rightfully so. In his first game back for the Panthers, Roberto Luongo certainly had a return to remember. While he wasn't as tested as his counterpart Michal Neuvirth, Luongo came up with the saves when he needed to as he turned aside all 25 Buffalo shots for his 66th career shutout and 27th in a Panthers uniform. It took 63 games for Florida to register their first shutout of the season and it came in Luongo's first game back. His biggest save came with 4:42 remaining in the second and the Cats holding on to a 1-0 lead. Tyler Ennis found himself all alone in front of the net and the rebound came onto his stick. With the Cats netminder down, he made a huge right pad save to keep the Sabres off the board.
2. Powered Up: Buffalo certainly helped along the way (see Marcus Foligno's five minute boarding call) but Florida definetly drew some penalties on their way to eight power plays on the night. And that's where they did their damage as Jesse Winchester and Dmitry Kulikov scored the only goals the Panthers would need in the 2-0 victory. Winchester's was a sweet redirect on a pass from Scottie Upshall with five seconds remaining on Foligno's major in the first and then Kulikov let a bomb go 4:04 into the third. Rookie Vincent Trocheck, making his NHL debut, was instrumental in drawing two power plays on the night.
3. Team Win: Yes the night was about Louie but during his post-game comments the netminder deflected credit to his teammates. Florida held play in the Sabres end for the majority of the night as evidence by the 44-25 shot disparity. Neuvirth was under fire all night from the likes of Sean Bergenheim who put up a whopping 12 shots as well as Tomas Fleischmann and Brandon Pirri who recorded five shots a piece. The defense cleared out a lot of rebounds limiting the second chances and the penalty kill killed off both Sabres power plays. Not too bad of a Friday night for the entire Cats team.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.
@ClineMJ: @FlaPanthers it's the start of a new era. In Viola We Trust. #RedRising
StacyAlbano: @FlaPanthers @strombone1 is home where he belongs!
@BrianPattyDoran: Luongo with the shutout. Great game with this new lineup. #Flapanthers @FlaPanthers
Memorable fan posts from the game.
Steve Levine: Awesome, excited to be a Panthers fan. He is a world class goalie who needed a new environment
Tyler Boross: This is the team that we need every game.
Robbie Potesta: how many vancouver fans got the florida app today? I take it more than a few
0. What a return for Roberto Luongo who pitched the shutout in stopping all 25 shots.
1. Playing in his first NHL game, 20-year old Vincent Trocheck had a great first 60 minutes, recording three shots on 17:35 of ice time. That total was the fifth highest among forwards.
2. The power play was all the Cats needed as they combined to go two-of-eight on the man advantage.
12. Forward Sean Bergenheim, who played a game high 24:42 also led by a large margin in the shot department with 12. The next closest skater was seven away (on either side).
65. Center Nick Bjugstad was once again strong in the face-off circle while pulling first line duties as he won 65% of his draws (15-of-23).
As if it could be anyone else. The guy only pitched a shutout in his return to the team.
Florida returns to the ice on Sunday when they look to win their first game of the season series against the Boston Bruins. It will be the final meeting between the two Atlantic Division foes with the Bruins winning the latest game 4-1 in Boston on Sunday. The Bruins are in Tampa Bay Saturday night before heading down to South Florida. They sit eight points clear of second place Montreal in the Atlantic Division. David Krejci, who netted a hat trick in the last game against the Cats, leads the way with 55 points (16-39-55) while Tuukka Rask owns a 2.13 GAA, .928 SV% and 27-14-4 record.