Luongo\'s major road work gives Panthers win

Goalie\'s stellar display helps Florida edge Washington after 13 straight away defeats

Luongo\'s major road work gives Panthers win

The trail of losses on the road finally stopped here.

After a club-record 13 consecutive losses away from South Florida, the Panthers won on the road Sunday for the first time since the day after Hurricane Wilma hit there.

They edged the Capitals, 3-2, at the MCI Center, beating the team with the third-fewest points in the NHL by the same score for the third time this season.

Afterward, rookie Rostislav Olesz, who scored what proved to be the deciding goal in the third period, spoke these words fluently in his otherwise broken English: "Thank you Louie very much!"

Then he said it again. In a season where goalie Roberto Luongo has been pulled six times, he delivered a performance Sunday that ended debate about whether he's as good as before or whether he should make Team Canada's Olympic roster, to be announced Wednesday.

"He stole the two points," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said.

Luongo faced 55 shots, making 53 saves. He let in Chris Clark's shot on a short-handed breakaway that gave the Capitals their only lead 9:48 into the game and Brian Sutherby's wrist shot at 15:04 of the third that pulled Washington within a goal.

Otherwise, Luongo was solid, stopping explosive rookie Alexander Ovechkin on a breakaway with six minutes left.

Sunday ended as the second-best effort of Luongo's career. He made 57 saves facing a franchise-record 60 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Feb. 27, 2002.

"We had ample opportunity to win," said Capitals coach Glen Hanlon. "What can you say? We had enough shots and enough chances. The puck was with the right people at the right time and we just couldn't score the tying goal."

Said Sutherby: "He was unbelievable. ... It's a game we should've won."

It was a game the Panthers were desperate to win, which is why defenseman Mike Van Ryn decided to play with an injured shoulder and 39-year-old center Joe Nieuwendyk decided to play on consecutive nights with a tender back that could have used the rest.

Then there was Luongo, who played for the third time in four days and second consecutive night. Martin said he asked Luongo if he was up for it after Saturday night's 2-1 loss to Atlanta. Luongo said he was. He didn't remember how many consecutive they'd lost on the road. He only knew "we have to get out of the funk."

Nathan Horton deflected in Van Ryn's slap shot at 11:04 of the first period. Jozef Stumpel added a second power-play goal at 16:52 of the second that essentially was a 5-on-3 since Capitals defenseman Jamie Heward was without a stick, which had broken.

Olesz deflected in another long Van Ryn shot at 4:48 of the third - the goal was reviewed to see if Olesz's stick was above the crossbar. And the Panthers killed all four power plays in the second period, including a 5-on-3, which was the key to the win, Martin said.

"This was one of our toughest games of the year," center Chris Gratton said. "It's nice to get this streak out of the way."

In other NHL action: Colorado 2, NY Rangers 1; Dallas 5, Chicago 3; Anaheim 5, San Jose 4.

Updated : 2021-02-26 15:56 GMT+08:00