MIAMI (AP) — Roberto Luongo won the Vezina Trophy twice during his seven-plus seasons with Vancouver and helped the Canucks push the 2011 Stanley Cup finals to seven games.
Luongo will be in net against his former team Sunday when the Canucks visit the Florida Panthers, who acquired the veteran from Vancouver less than two weeks ago.
Luongo, who turns 35 next month, was dealt March 4 along with forward Steven Anthony to Florida in exchange for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias. This is Luongo’s second stint with the Panthers, whom he played for from 2000-06.
“It’s going to be weird, for sure,” Luongo said of facing the Canucks. “I was in that other locker room just a week and a half ago. It’s the first time really I’ve been traded during the season, so I don’t know how I’m going to feel.”
One of 29 goaltenders to amass at least 300 careervictories, Luongo earned his second since the trade Friday, stopping 28 shots as Florida (25-35-7) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over New Jersey.
Five different players scored for the Panthers, including rookie center Vincent Trocheck, who tallied his first NHL goal in his fifth career game.
“It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders. Five games felt like is an eternity to get that first one,” Trocheck said.
It was only the fourth victory since Jan. 26 for Florida, which has gone 4-11-0 in that span with 59 goals allowed. Luongo is 2-2-0 since the trade with a 2.53 goals-against average and 91.9 save percentage.
Vancouver (30-29-10) has also been struggling lately, losing five of its seven games this month. The Canucks have allowed 25 goals during that span, including a whopping seven in the third period of an embarrassing 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday.
Eddie Lack allowed six of those goals and has a save percentage of 87.7 since becoming the full-time starter after Luongo’s departure. Against Washington on Friday during the second stop on a four-game trip, Lack made just 17 saves in a 4-3 loss.
Vancouver was without leading scorer Ryan Kesler, who suffered a knee injury in a 3-2 shootout win at Winnipeg on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks.
Matthias, who had nine goals with the Panthers this season, tallied his first as a member of the Canucks in the defeat.
“It’s frustrating. I thought we played really well. It’s upsetting. We can still get three wins on this trip, that’s the focus,” Mathias said. “We can’t take a night off, we have to play every game like it’s our last.”
While the chance to face Luongo will attract much of the attention, the Canucks are looking to end their losing skid and climb back into the Western Conference playoff race.
“It’s a huge game for us,” winger Henrik Sedin said of playing Florida. “It’ll be fun to see (Luongo) again but we’re focused on getting the win.”
The Panthers won in Vancouver 3-2 in a shootout when the teams met Nov. 19.
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