MIAMI (AP) — The Florida Panthers are on the brink of their worst start to a season in seven years, but putting Roberto Luongo back in net against the Ottawa Senators could prevent that from happening.
After being pulled in the Panthers’ last game, Luongo will try to help them to their first win of 2014-15 by continuing his dominance of the visiting Senators on Monday night.
Florida (0-1-1) last started a season with three consecutive losses in 2007-08, and has gone winless in its two first games this year after Saturday’s 5-1 defeat to New Jersey. Luongo gave up all five goals on 14 shots before being pulled for backup Al Montoya early in the second period.
First-year coach Gerard Gallant doesn’t want to dwell on the defeat, which came two days after the Panthers opened the season with a 3-2 overtime loss at Tampa Bay.
“We play too many games to worry about (the last) game,” Gallant told the team’s official website. “We’ve got to move on, we’ve got to get ready for the Ottawa Senators. It’s another big game. There’s no easy game for the Florida Panthers. We’ve got to come ready to play every night.
“We played real hard the first night and showed what we can do.”
It may behoove Gallant to give Luongo a third straight start since he has a 1.87 goals-against average while winning 10 straight meetings with Ottawa, dating to a loss on Dec. 5, 2005.
Montoya is 1-2-0 with a 2.94 GAA in five games – three starts – against the Senators.
Luongo made 37 saves before turning aside two shootout attempts in a 3-2 win in the most recent meeting in Florida on March 25. A similar effort could help him avoid his first 0-3 start since 2009-10 with Vancouver.
While Luongo is likely to get the nod ahead of Montoya, the Panthers may be more concerned with the state of their special teams already after ranking last in the NHL on the power play (10 percent) and penalty kill (76) last season.
They’ve allowed five power-play goals on 12 opportunities and converted only 1 of 10 themselves.
Florida’s three leading goal-scorers from last season – Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim and Nick Bjugstad – have failed to find the net in the first two games.
The Senators are looking to conclude this three-game trip with back-to-back wins after Robin Lehner stopped Steven Stamkos on the final shootout attempt to clinch Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Lightning.
Lehner finished his season debut with 38 saves before turning aside two attempts in the tiebreaker.
“We were pesky,” coach Paul MacLean said. “Robin was very solid in the net. We got yeoman work from our defensemen. I think finally in the third period our forwards got involved in the game a little bit better defensively and got some good results.”
Continued production from star defenseman Erik Karlsson would also help. The 2012 Norris Trophy winner scored midway through the third period Saturday after being held without a point with a minus-2 rating in a season-opening 3-2 loss at Nashville two days earlier.
Karlsson has four goals and two assists in eight road meetings with Florida.
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