Panthers 3, Sharks 2

Florida Panthers survive San Jose Sharks onslaught in third, claim victory

 
 
Florida Panthers' Brandon Pirri (73) scores past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31), of Finland, and defenseman Scott Hannan (27) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif. on March 18, 2014.
Florida Panthers' Brandon Pirri (73) scores past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31), of Finland, and defenseman Scott Hannan (27) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif. on March 18, 2014.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Roberto Luongo won't participate in the upcoming postseason. He sure looked playoff ready Tuesday night.

The Panthers' goalie was absolutely outstanding throughout Florida's 3-2 win over the Sharks at SAP Center.

Florida has now won three in a row in San Jose dating to Bryan Allen's overtime goal here in 2010.

Luongo, whose Canucks were swept out of the 2013 playoffs by these Sharks, was assaulted on all sides especially but no more than during a dominating third by the Sharks.

The Sharks, who had won six straight, outshot the Panthers a whopping 29-2 in the final 20 minutes. Florida was also forced to kill off four power plays — including a 5-on-3 chance for 51 seconds — during the third.

"We got into some penalty issues and they're such a good veteran team, they're going to get opportunities," captain Ed Jovanovski said. "Hey, we found a way to keep it out of the net. [Luongo] played great. But they were coming in waves."

Luongo, who beat the Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference finals in five games, ended the night with 52 saves.

"Some days you feel it more than others. Even this morning at practice I felt good," Luongo said. "You have that feeling sometimes. I've always enjoyed playing in this building."

San Jose, battling for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference, seemed to toy with the host Panthers in a 3-0 win last month and took the initial lead Tuesday.

After a scoreless first in which Luongo kept Florida afloat, the Sharks cashed in on a power play following a questionable boarding call on Jimmy Hayes.

Marty Havlat gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead when he teed off and fired one past a diving Luongo from 30 feet out after a sharp deflection ended up on his tape.

Yet as was the case in Florida's previous visit in 2011, three goals in second period did the Sharks in. Good thing. San Jose brought all it had in the third.

"Louie played great obviously, but so many penalties in the third was the crazy part," coach Peter Horachek said. "They certainly know what they're doing in those situations and put a lot of pucks at the net. That's where [Luongo] shines, a big situation with pucks coming at him. We're fortunate to get out of here with the two points."

The Panthers, who scored three in the second during their 5-3 win here on Dec. 3, 2011, did it again Tuesday.

Outplayed to this point, Florida was able to tie it when rookie Brandon Pirri took off on a rush and somehow weaved his way through the defense and put a shot past Antti Niemi.

Just 17 seconds later, Pirri hammered a shot that Niemi got a piece of. Quinton Howden was down low, however, and swept the loose puck into the empty net to give the Panthers their first lead of the night.

"It seemed like pucks were jumping everywhere," Pirri said. "It's a good feeling when the team gets a jump like that."

Scottie Upshall made it 3-1 in the waning seconds of the second when his soft shot from inside the right circle got between Niemi's skates and nestled into the back of the net.

Read more Florida Panthers stories from the Miami Herald

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