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Vaulted: Luongo Joins Elite Company by Skating in 1,000th NHL Game

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Welcome to "Vaulted," a new series in which we take a look back a moments that are worthy of being enshrined within the Florida Panthers Virtual Vault, which is presented by Baptist Health.

Roberto Luongo's longevity might've only been matched by his sense of humor.

With this milestone toward the end of his career, he was able to show off both.

In making 26 saves to backstop the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins back on April 5, 2018 at BB&T Center, the legendary netminder became just the third goaltender in NHL history to compete in 1,000 games, joining Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

"The boys probably played their best game of the year," Luongo, humble as ever, said after the victory. "I thought we were phenomenal at both ends of the ice. I think that was our best game by far. They didn't really have any chances at all. That's the best gift the boys could give me."

[The Vault: Luongo poses with 1,000th NHL game puck] 

Pressed for a few trade secrets later on, Luongo finally revealed the source of his durability.

"A lot of pizza and pasta," he quipped, flashing a big smile.

At 39 years old, Luongo went on to finish with one of the best seasons of his career during the 2017-18 campaign. Helping the Panthers climb within one point of a playoff spot, he posted an 18-11-2 record behind a 2.47 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts.

Finishing strong, he went 3-0-0 with a .955 save percentage over his final four appearances.

"He's been amazing," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said of Luongo as the team's playoff race began to heat up in March of that season. "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."

Given that Florida was still fighting for a place in the postseason at the time, Luongo opted to hold off on celebrating his 1,000th game until the following season, saying, "We're focused on the playoff push and it wasn't the right time for me. I didn't want to be a distraction for my team."

So, just three games into the 2018-19 season, Luongo was finally honored when the Panthers hosted the Vancouver Canucks, who he spent parts of eight seasons with, on Oct. 13, 2018. In addition to a video tribute, he also received many gifts, including a golden stick and a portrait.

"I was happy that it happens to be with the two clubs I spent most of my career with," he said.

Of course, that wouldn't be the last time that Luongo was celebrated at center ice in Sunrise.

After manning the crease for 19 seasons in the NHL -- including parts of 11 with the Panthers -- Luongo officially hung up his skates on June 26, 2019, finishing his career ranking second in NHL history in games played by a goalie (1,044), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77).

[The Vault: Luongo graces the cover of "Growl" during his first season with Florida] 

On March 7, 2020, he became the player in Panthers history to have their number retired when his iconic No. 1 sweater was raised up into the rafters during an emotional pre-game ceremony.

"When I was a kid, being No. 1 meant being No. 1, just being the best at everything," said Luongo, who was originally drafted by the New York Islanders with the fourth-overall pick in 1997. "I tried to be the best at everything I did. No. 1 in your programs, No. 1 in your hearts."

Now 41 and working within the organization's hockey operations department as a special advisor to Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon, Luongo remains the franchise's all-time leader in wins (247), saves (17,501) and shutouts (38).

"South Florida's my home," said Luongo, who resides in Parkland. "I'm going to be here a long time. I did what I could not only on the ice, but off the ice and I look forward to keep doing that."

Want to explore the Panthers Virtual Vault? Click HERE to visit! 

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