“You’ve got to give Luongo a lot of credit,” Flyers wing Mark Recchi said. “He was the only reason they were in the game. He was the No. 1, 2 and 3 stars out there.”
Luongo has faced more shots this season than any goaltender in the NHL. Philadelphia outshot the Panthers 47-25.
“I think everybody’s talking about MVP in the league—to me, I think this guy is MVP of the league,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Luongo is a guy who can steal games, gets points maybe when they don’t deserve them, and he’s approaching where at times he’s intimidating.”
Rookie defenseman Joni Pitkanen had the first two-goal game of his NHL career, and Eric Weinrich also scored for the Flyers, who have lost only once in their last seven games (5-1-1). The Flyers are unbeaten in their last four on the road (3-0-1).
“Obviously, they outplayed us,” Florida coach Rick Dudley said. “They had the puck in our zone much of the night. But we also, in the infinite wisdom of the National Hockey League, had four games in six nights. One of them while we were coming back from a road trip with one of the elite teams in the league sitting and waiting for us. So it had to be expected.”
The tie gave the Flyers sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference standings with 66 points, one more than idle Toronto.
Robert Esche, making his seventh consecutive start in goal for the Flyers with Jeff Hackett sidelined because of vertigo, stopped 22 shots. It was only the third time in those seven games that he allowed more than one goal.
“We gave up three goals, which you don’t like to do,” Esche said. “But they made three pretty good plays.”
The Panthers missed a great chance to win with less than two minutes left in regulation when Olli Jokinen’s wrist shot hit the post.
The Flyers had the best chance in overtime on a two-on-one, but Luongo made a spectacular glove save against Recchi.
“I just saw it was a two-on-one and I was just able to get my glove up in time and save it,” Luongo said.
After playing to a 1-1 tie through two periods, the teams traded four goals in the third, including three in a span of 1:29.
Kolnik began the third-period outburst 2:10 in when he put a rebound past Esche while sliding on a knee.
“When we had the lead we thought everything was fine, but we can’t think like that,” Huselius said. “I’m glad we got a point at least.”
Philadelphia tied the score at 9:36 when Weinrich’s wrist shot from the point beat Luongo through a screen. The Flyers took the lead 30 seconds later when Pitkanen beat Luongo with a wrist shot from the boards, again through a screen.
Huselius tied it at 3 when he beat Esche to the glove side after one-timing Eric Beaudoin’s pass to the right circle.
“It’s been a while since I buried one like that,” Huselius said.
Pitkanen opened the scoring at 5:53 of the second period shortly after the end of a four-on-three power play. With Stephen Weiss hustling to get back into the play, Pitkanen beat Luongo with a slap shot through the legs.
“The second one, I don’t think he saw anything,” Pitkanen said. “The first one, I had passed five times before, so maybe he didn’t think I was going to shoot.”
Lilja tied the score on a four-on-four when he joined Valeri Bure on a two-on-one rush and tipped Bure’s cross-ice pass into the open net.
“We played a tremendous hockey game today,” Hitchcock said. “We obviously think we deserved a lot better shake than the one we got, but we played a heckof a hockey game.”
The season series ended with the Flyers ahead 2-1-1. … Florida has lost only three times in its last 13 home games (6-3-4). … This was only the second time in 10 games the Panthers allowed the first goal. … Huselius’ goal was the 50th of his NHL career. … Florida D Mike Van Ryn returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a concussion. … Florida RW Viktor Kozlov missed the game because of a thumb injury sustained when he took a shot in Monday night’s loss to the New York Rangers. … Flyers LW Sami Kapanen(ribs) missed his second consecutive game.