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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Florida Panthers needed 12 minutes to get their first shot on goal and had just 16 of them total Thursday night.
Goalie Roberto Lunogo kept the NHL’s hottest team on track.
Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck scored 8 seconds apart in the first period, Luongo made 30 saves and the Panthers extended their franchise-best win streak to 11 games with a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers and Luongo won his career-high ninth straight start.
“I don’t think by any means that was our best game,” Luongo said. “It was probably one of our worst in the last 11, but for some reason or other right now we’re finding ways to win games so it’s nice. We’ll take them.”
Florida’s streak is the NHL’s longest since Boston won 12 straight in March of 2014, according to the NHL.
“We have to say thanks to (Luongo) for this one,” Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr said. “We didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win. It’s big for us.”
Max McCormick and Milan Michalek scored for the Senators and Craig Anderson stopped 13 shots.
In the first period, Luongo made a great save, and on the ensuing play, Smith deflected Jonathan Huberdeau’s shot to open the scoring at 12:01 on the Panthers’ first shot of the game. Trocheck made it 2-0 after Ottawa’s Fredrik Claesson turned the puck over trying a no-look pass from the end boards out front of his own net.
“The first one was a great shot by Smitty and the second one we capitalized on their mistake,” Jagr said. “It was big for us. We didn’t play very well, but we had a 2-0 lead so it was big.”
Florida kept the lead from there despite being outshot 23-12 over the final two periods. The 36-year-old Luongo has allowed two or fewer goals in six straight games. He deflected attention when asked if this is the best hockey he’s played.
“I think so, but that’s also due to the fact that the guys in front of me are playing so well defensively also so it goes hand in hand,” he said. “When they play well in front of me, makes my job easier, makes me play well and maybe they feed off of that. That’s what a team’s all about.”
Barkov made it 3-1 7:30 into the third period. Claesson got his stick on Jaromir Jagr’s centering pass, but the puck still trickled over for Barkov to backhand in near the far post.
“For me it’s a tough one to swallow because we put ourselves behind the eight-ball down 2-0 when we were playing pretty good hockey,” said Anderson.
“That one’s on me. It’s frustrating to see us play well like that from my standpoint back in the net watching us play the way we did and not get rewarded for it. I take responsibility. My game is to make a big save for the guys when they needed it and I didn’t give it to them.”
McCormick scored 5:38 into the second period for his first NHL goal. After Alex Petrovic’s poor pass, McCormick beat Luongo with a shot off the post.
About 2 minutes after Barkov’s goal, Michalek cut the lead while playing for the first time after missing 16 games with a broken index finger. Michalek tipped Erik Karlsson’s point shot past Lunogo to make it 3-2.
NOTES: Florida has won five straight on the road, tying a franchise record for a second time this season, according to the NHL. … Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci returned after missing the last six with an upper body injury. … Ottawa defensemen Chris Wideman and Jared Cowen and RW Alex Chiasson were healthy scratches. The Panthers remain without C Dave Bolland (lower body) and C Quinton Howden was a healthy scratch.
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