Panthers 4, Lightning 0

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Rick Dudley’s debut as interim coach of the Florida Panthers went as well as he could have wished.

Roberto Luongo made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season, and the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 Tuesday night.

It was Dudley’s first victory as an NHL head coach since Nov. 22, 1991, when he was with the Buffalo Sabres.

“I think it’s satisfying,” Dudley said. “We’re going to try and keep this not too high, not too low. We won a game. It’s the start of hopefully many we’ll win together, and that’s what we’re going to build toward.”

Niklas Hagman, Andreas Lilja, Jaroslav Bednar and Valeri Bure scored for the Panthers, who snapped a seven-game winless streak against Tampa Bay.

“It’s been a while,” Hagman said. “It’s right next to us. It’s always fun to win against Tampa Bay.”

The Lightning have scored only once in their last two games following a team-record 9-0 shutout of Pittsburgh.

Tampa Bay is 1-2-1-1 in its last five games since starting the season 7-0-1.

“This was not typical of the way we can play,” captain Dave Andreychuk said. “Something has to be done. Maybe we’re reading the paper and the standings too much. We have a nice record, but you can’t rely on that alone to win hockey games.”

Dudley, also Florida’s general manager, replaced Mike Keenan, who was fired Sunday. Dudley was Tampa Bay’s general manager from 1999-2001 and hired Lightning coach John Tortorella.

Dudley became the fifth consecutive Panthers coach to win his debut, following Keenan, Duane Sutter, Terry Murray and Bryan Murray.

Luongo also had shutouts in the Florida debuts of Keenan and Sutter.

“It’s great to be able to get two points for Dud,” Luongo said. “But in a guy’s first game, guys always put on a great show. It’s a matter of doing it game in and game out.”

Luongo’s best saves came in the second period, when he stopped Brad Richards’ wrist shot on a two-on-one and later made a glove save on Martin St. Louis’ shot from in front. He also made a great leg save with less than two minutes left when St. Louis one-timed a pass across the crease.

“He was unbelievable,” Panthers defenseman Lyle Odelein said. “I think he played the puck really well. He’s been our best player all year. It’s really no surprise the way he played tonight.”

Nikolai Khabibulin made 25 saves for Tampa Bay.

Hagman opened the scoring 3:12 into the first period when he took a loose puck along the boards and fired a wrist shot over Khabibulin’s right shoulder.

Florida increased the lead to 2-0 in the final minute of the first when Lilja’s slap shot from the point deflected off Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich.

Bednar made it 3-0 at 4:23 of the third period when he took a pass from Marcus Nilson from behind the net and flipped a backhand past Khabibulin.

Bure closed the scoring on a five-on-three power play when he one-timed a slap shot between Khabibulin’s legs.

“Everything worked out for us,” Bure said. “There wasn’t one guy whodidn’t play well.”

Notes

Florida was without leading scorer Viktor Kozlov, who missed the game because of a facial injury sustained Saturday night at St. Louis. … Lilja was injured when he was checked in open ice by Tampa Bay defenseman Cory Sarich. Although the exact nature of the injury wasn’t immediately known, Dudley said Lilja might miss some action. … Tampa Bay allowed more than two goals for only the third time in 13 games this season. … Tampa Bay is the only NHL team that has not had a player miss a game due to injury this season. … Scott Allen was named the coach of Florida’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Hereplaced Steve Ludzik, who joined the Panthers’ staff Monday.

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  Game Winning Goal
N. Hagman N. Hagman
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Scored at 3:12 of 1st

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Nikolai Khabibulin Chi 29 25