Panthers keep rolling, drop Senators to extend streak

Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots to help the Florida Panthers edge the Senators 3-2, making it 11 straight wins.

The Florida Panthers were the first to admit they didn’t play their best game Thursday night, but right now everything seems to be going their way.

Roberto Luongo made 30 saves and the Panthers won a record 11th-straight game with a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

“We have to say thanks to (Luongo) for this one,” said Jaromir Jagr. “We didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win. It’s big for us.”

Luongo set a personal best by winning his ninth straight start.

Asked if he was playing some of the best hockey of his career the 36-year-old did his best to deflect.

“I think so, but that’s also due to the fact that the guys in front of me are playing so well defensively also, so it goes hand in hand,” said Luongo.

“When they play well in front of me it makes my job easier, makes me play well and maybe they feed off of that. That’s what a team’s all about. Everybody needs to contribute in their own way and right now I think guys are doing that and different nights guys are stepping up.”

The difference for the Panthers on this night came in the first period when Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck scored eight seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead.

Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers (25-12-4), who now have a five-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens for first in the Atlantic Division.

Max McCormick and Milan Michalek scored for the Senators (19-16-6) while Craig Anderson stopped 13 shots.

“For me it’s a tough one to swallow because we put ourselves behind the eight-ball down 2-0 when we were playing pretty good hockey,” said Anderson.

“That one’s on me. It’s frustrating to see us play well like that from my standpoint back in the net watching us play the way we did and not get rewarded for it. I take responsibility. My game is to make a big save for the guys when they needed it and I didn’t give it to them.”

The Panthers were up 2-1 after two periods and extended their lead at 7:30 of the third when a Jagr pass through the crease rolled off Ottawa’s Fredrik Claesson‘s stick to Barkov to make it 3-1.

Just over two minutes later Michalek, playing for the first time after missing 16 games due to a broken index finger, tipped an Erik Karlsson point shot to make it 3-2 with over ten minutes remaining.

Trailing 2-0, the Senators were able to cut the Panthers lead in half in the second.

Ottawa failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage early in the second, but made the most of a Florida giveaway.

Alex Petrovic made a bad pass that McCormick made the most of as he beat Luongo with a shot off the post for his first career NHL goal.

“It was a pretty fun moment,” said McCormick. “It’s pretty cool scoring against (Luongo). I didn’t really care which goalie it was as long as I got one in.”

The Senators got off to a great start and seemed to have the edge as far as momentum, but things turned quickly as the Panthers scored two goals eight seconds apart in the first period.

Luongo made a great save at one end and on the ensuing play Smith was able to deflect Jonathan Huberdeau‘s shot to open the scoring at 12:01 on the Panthers’ first shot of the game. Trocheck made it 2-0 on a brutal giveaway by Fredrik Claesson, who made a no-look pass from the end boards out front of his own net.

Aside from the two quick goals Senators coach Dave Cameron had no issue with his team’s performance.

“I thought we played a real good game,” said Cameron. “But at the end of the day it’s about results and we didn’t get the result we wanted.”

Ottawa defenceman Cody Ceci returned after missing the last six with an upper-body injury.

Notes: Ottawa D Chris Wideman and Jared Cowen as well as RW Alex Chiasson were healthy scratches. The Panthers remain without C Dave Bolland (lower body) and C Quinton Howden was a healthy scratch.

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