While many viewed trading him a mistake, the Islanders have come up with an impressive young goaltender of their own.
Luongo will try to post a rare victory against his former team when the Panthers face Rick DiPietro and the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Since his trade to the Panthers in 2000, Luongo has established himself as one of the league’s best goalies despite playing on a struggling team. Luongo, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2003-04, set an NHL record that season with 2,303 saves.
But one of the teams Luongo struggles against is the Islanders. He is 3-8-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average in 15 career appearances against them.
Luongo started this season in impressive fashion as he recorded shutouts against Atlanta and Tampa Bay to help Florida open with a pair of wins. He had another strong performance in a 2-1 loss to the Lightning on Saturday, stopping 32 of 34 shots.
Luongo stopped all 73 shots he faced this season before Tampa Bay’s Fredrik Modin scored 55 seconds into the second period Saturday.
“We battled to the end, and that’s a positive for us,” Luongo said. “We had two very good games, although I feel we should have gotten at least a point tonight.”
One problem area early this season for the Panthers is a power play that has converted on only two of 22 opportunities.
“We have to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box, because we can’t let that become the focus of our game,” Florida’s Joe Nieuwendyk said. “If we are going to have a lot of penalties, we have to be better on the power play.”
Luongo is one of several ex-Islanders on the Panthers’ current roster. Captain Olli Jokinen, defensemen Branislav Mezei, Alexander Karpovtsev and Eric Cairns, right wing Juraj Kolnik and backup goalie Jamie McLennan all spent time on Long Island.
DiPietro wasn’t sharp in the Islanders’ season-opening 6-4 loss Wednesday at Buffalo, but was outstanding Saturday in a 3-2 victory over visiting Carolina.
With his team struggling through the first period, DiPietro kept New York close with 16 saves and finished with 42, three short of his career high.
“Ricky was the difference tonight, no doubt,” Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. “He held on in there when we had a bad first period and took a while to get going in the second. He deserved to be the No. 1 star.”
Jason Blake, Miroslav Satan and Shawn Bates scored for the Islanders, who won their home opener after they had 25 home wins and 55 points at Nassau Coliseum in 2003-04, the most for the franchise since 1985-86.