“Fabulous,” Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said of Luongo, who made 42 saves Saturday night in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory. “It was unbelievable. The only goal of the game, nobody was going to stop it. It was exceptional to watch. He played a great game.”
Luongo earned his third shutout of the season in a game that featured 76 shots but only one goal.
The Blue Jackets kept constant pressure on Luongo, and he seemed to be constantly staring through lots of. But Columbus was unable to sneak a shot past him.
“It was one of those games where I felt great,” Luongo said. “Some saves felt a lot easier than they might have looked.”
Columbus goalie Marc Denis stayed with Luongo for most of the night, stopping 33 shots.
Stephen Weiss scored the only goal three minutes into the second period.
Weiss received a cross-ice pass from Pavel Trnka and sent the puck into the top corner, beating Denis for his ninth goal of the season. The goal came one second after a Florida power play expired.
Weiss entered with only one goal in 15 games after starting the season with seven in the first 15.
“It was patience on the two defensemen’s part,” Weiss said. “There was a guy in their shooting lane and it was a heads-up play to get the puck. I just shot it right away and luckily it went in.”
Mike Van Ryan started the play with a between-the-legs pass to Trnka, who acknowledges that he got lucky.
“I’m sure if I would have turned it over, I would have been sitting for a while,” Van Ryan said.
Luongo made the lead hold up, but not without a workout. He faced 30 shots in the final two periods, including 16 in the third.
Columbus’ pressure led to a number of scoring chances throughout, but none that paid off.
The Blue Jackets hit a crossbar and a post. They were stopped on breakaways and didn’t capitalizing on a two-man advantage.
“If we score on a couple of our chances, we are in a totally different game,” Columbus’ Rick Nash said.
Luongo’s performance couldn’t have come at a better time for Panthers, who played for the fifth time in eight days.
“We knew we wouldn’t have our best stuff,” Panthers coach Rick Dudley said. “Fortunately we had a pretty good goaltender. If he’s not an All-Star, Idon’t know who is.”
Florida RW Victor Kozlov has 287 points with the Panthers, three shy of second place on the Panthers’ career list. … Columbus LW Rick Nash has an NHL-high 23 goals and has accounted for 46 percent of the Blue Jackets’ goals this season. … The Panthers are heading out on a four-game road trip andwon’t play at home again until Jan. 17.
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