Robb Tallas is charged with coordinating the Panthers’ goalie rotation.
With Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya as his options, Tallas admits it isn’t the toughest gig in the world.
“Both guys have been terrific all year and that gives you so much confidence whichever way we go,” Tallas said after Montoya improved to 8-2-1 by beating the Capitals 5-2 on Tuesday.
“The players have confidence in both that they will step up and make the saves they need to make.”
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With the Panthers in first place and riding another winning streak, Tallas tries to strike the right balance between working Luongo too much and not giving enough work to Montoya.
On most nights, either choice has been the right one as Luongo and Montoya may be the best 1-2 option in the NHL.
Luongo is ranked in the NHL’s top 10 in save percentage (93) and goals-against average (2.08) as well as wins (22) and shutouts (four).
Montoya would be ranked as well, although he hasn’t played enough games (13) to be considered.
Montoya has stopped 93 percent of shots faced, with an average goals-against at 1.93.
Florida’s 109 goals allowed are second-fewest only to Washington’s 108.
“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Brian Campbell said. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”
A former NHL goalie himself, Tallas has been credited by both Luongo and Montoya as a hands-on coach who doesn’t make them do too much.
During the summer, Luongo seeks out Tallas’ help in working on drills while Montoya says Tallas hits the right balance on making sure his goalies are rested yet ready.
“He doesn’t overwork us,’’ Montoya said after he became the first goalie this season to beat the Washington Capitals twice.
“We do what we need. We work on specifics but it’s not about facing 100 extra shots after practice. It’s about feeling good, keeping that game mentality in practice.”
Montoya has done a good job this season of being ready when called upon.
Although Luongo — who is having, statistically, perhaps the best season of his long career — gets most of the work, Montoya has turned in some top performances.
Even though he has only started four games since the New Year, Montoya earned the ‘Spacey In Space’ sweatshirt for the second time on Tuesday.
Against the Capitals, Montoya was stellar especially early when the Panthers needed him most.
Florida looked like it enjoyed its All-Star break a bit too much and the Capitals, perhaps overcompensating without Alex Ovechkin in the lineup, came out guns blazing.
Montoya stopped eight shots in the first half of the opening period, many of which were tough, point blank saves.
Then, the Panthers got a goal from Jonathan Huberdeau to take an unlikely 1-0 lead. By the start of the second, Montoya had made 16 saves only the Panthers had a 3-0 lead and were rolling.
“I’ll take what games I can get and contribute when I can,’’ said Montoya, whose 36 saves Tuesday were second only to the 39 he made in a win over the Wild last month.
“I prepare to play every game and when I get called, I know I can give this team a chance to win and that’s all I focus on. I try not to do more than that. I make the saves I can.”
On Thursday, Detroit comes to Sunrise and Luongo will be back manning the nets. Luongo will likely start Saturday as well, with Montoya’s next opportunity to play next week when Florida visits Detroit and Buffalo on consecutive nights.
Montoya will keep working, waiting until called again.
“Montoya knows his role and there’s no deflecting things,’’ Tallas said. “They are a tandem, a team out there. Luongo has been a rock and Montoya has been as well.”
▪ The Panthers are the only team to beat the Capitals twice this season and it was their first win in Washington since 2010.
Montoya went 2-0-1 against the Capitals this season, handing Florida its first season win over Washington since 2010-11.
Dmitry Kulikov was there for most of Florida’s 10 consecutive losses at Verizon Center and is enjoying his team’s success in buildings they’ve struggled in over his tenure.
“My memories here aren’t good. We’ve been destroyed here,” Kulikov said. “For this team, though, this was just another win in our season. We keep collecting points. It’s awesome being a part of this team. We have a great group of guys. We’re all having fun. It’s much better than being miserable.”
▪ Jaromir Jagr left Tuesday’s game midway through the third with what is said to be lower body tightness. The Panthers do not believe the injury is anything serious.
▪ By killing off all eight penalties incurred on Tuesday, Florida’s penalty kill jumped from eighth to fifth in the league.
Washington’s first goal, however, was directly linked to Florida’s final kill as it was scored seconds after Derek MacKenzie raced out of the box. He was slapped with an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after being called for hooking — Florida’s third such penalty.
“Our penalty kill was just terrific,” Tallas said.
Thursday: Red Wings at Panthers
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV, radio: FSFL; 560 (WQAM), WMEN (640), WNMA (1210).
Series: Detroit leads 16-8-5
Scouting report: The Panthers have won four of five against the Red Wings under coach — and former Detroit winger Gerard Gallant — in the past two seasons.