Roberto Luongo finally plays in Phoenix as Florida Panthers fall to Coyotes

03/21/2014 12:01 AM

03/21/2014 4:03 PM

Roberto Luongo finally got his game in Arizona on Thursday night.

It was a rough one.

Phoenix kept its playoff hopes going as it picked up two points on Minnesota and Dallas by dropping the Panthers 2-1 at Jobing.com Arena.

Luongo, who was scheduled to start for Vancouver here the day he was traded back to the Panthers on March 4, made 20 saves but ended up on the ice a few times and even took an errant stick to the neck.

"The scene of the crime,'' Luongo joked beforehand.

Luongo wasn't laughing late in the first period when the Coyotes, who have won three straight and five of six, scored their second of the game.

Luongo never had a chance at the puck as Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker ran over Luongo. The two lay in a heap as Antoine Vermette scored to make it 2-0 with 1:22 left.

An official told Luongo and coach Peter Horachek that Florida defenseman Dylan Olsen hooked Boedker and if there was any penalty to be called, it would have been on the Panthers.

They didn't agree with that assessment as Vermette's goal stood up as the game-winner.

"They felt our guy pushed him into me,'' Luongo said afterward. "I felt the guy was already in the blue [paint] when contact was made. It makes it tough for me to do my job when I end up in the corner. It's frustrating because you want to have the chance to make a save. When you're taken out of the play, you can't do anything about it.''

Said Horachek: "They felt Olsen was doing it, but without the ability to look at video, it's hard. It was obviously not the right call. It should have come back. But those things happen and you have to deal with them. Everyone does.''

Phoenix, which beat the Panthers 3-1 in Sunrise earlier this month, had a number of chances against Luongo and the Panthers but couldn't get anything else through.

Early in the third period, Luongo hit the deck after getting caught by the stick of Martin Erat. As Erat was swinging around the cage, Luongo went out to make some contact and Erat's stick got under his mask and knocked him to the ice.

After being looked at by head athletic trainer David Zenobi, Luongo got up and continued the game.

"I don't think it was intentional but they're a big team, like to play the body,'' Luongo said. "That was a physical game.''

Florida finally scored with Scott Gomez getting his second of the season with 4:07 left.

Gomez whipped a shot past goalie Mike Smith's glove to give the Panthers hope. Despite playing a skater up for the final minute, Florida couldn't get anything else past the former Tampa Bay netminder.

"We knew it was going to be a tight game against these guys,'' Brian Campbell said. "I didn't think we were at our best and that's frustrating. We could have given a better effort.''

• Thursday's goal was Gomez's first in a long, long time. Gomez, 34, hadn't scored a goal for the Panthers since getting the team's first of the season in the opener at Dallas.

That was on Oct. 3.

"It came a little too late and we didn't get the two points so it really doesn't matter to me,'' said Gomez, who was a healthy scratch for big chunks of this season before becoming the full-time fourth line center after the trade deadline.

"My job is, I don't know when it started, but I'm so into the passing the puck. My job is to get the wingers the puck. I've been yelled at my whole career for not shooting.''

• Florida captain Ed Jovanovski played his first game in Glendale since leaving the Coyotes for Florida in 2011.

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