Even when things go wrong, they seem to go right for the Panthers lately.
A slow start and a performance well below their recent standards didn’t seem to matter Thursday as the Panthers continued to grow the longest winning streak in franchise history, now up to 11 games, following their 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
They also tied another franchise mark with their fifth consecutive road win, a standard they set at the end of 2009.
Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck and Sasha Barkov had goals for the Panthers (25-12-4), and Roberto Luongo made 31 saves.
None was bigger than a sprawling pad save off Mika Zibanejad with the Senators on the power play and trailing 2-1 early in the third period.
Max McCormick and Milan Michalek had the only goal for the Senators (19-16-6) despite the fact they outshot the Panthers 32-16.
“It was pretty tough. They had a lot more chances and a lot more shots,” Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr said. “[Luongo] was excellent, and that’s why he’s an All-Star. We have to say thanks to Lou for this one. We didn’t play our best but found a way to win.”
It took a little while to get the Panthers’ train rolling though as they didn’t register their first shot on goal until the 12:01 mark of the first period. Eight seconds later they had their second shot.
And they just happened to score on both those shots to take a 2-0 lead.
“We got off to the early start and leading 2-0 in that hockey game was key,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I don’t think we played a great game.
“I don’t think we worked hard enough at times, and it catches up to you. We’ve been on the road a lot lately, and I thought we were a little sluggish.”
Smith opened the scoring with a bullet wrist shot over the shoulder of Senators goalie Craig Anderson from the top of the faceoff circle.
On the ensuing faceoff at center ice, the Senators won the draw cleanly as the puck went directly to the corner to the right of Anderson.
Defenseman Fredrik Claesson retrieved the puck as Smith went in hard on the forecheck.
Claesson sent the puck right up the center of the ice where Trocheck deposited the gift in the Ottawa goal.
The Senators got one back at 5:38 of the second period in similar fashion in the same end but the other corner.
Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic tried to clear the puck up the middle, but this time McCormick was the recipient of a horrible giveaway, and he beat Luongo off the post and his stick side for his first NHL goal.
“I don’t think by any means that was our best game, and one of our worst in the last little bit, but for some reason or another we keep winning games and we’ll take it,” Luongo said.
The teams traded third-period goals.
The Panthers are now 21-3-2 when scoring the first goal of the game and 16-2-2 when leading after the second period.
Closing out games is not an issue for this group as they are off until Sunday when they face the Oilers in Edmonton.
▪ Panthers farmhand Rob Schrremp was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the for the 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic, to be held Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Syracuse, New York.
Schremp has 13 goals and 14 assists so far this season in 32 games with the Portland Pirates.