Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers fall to Canucks in shootout

Roberto Luongo was on the wrong side of a shootout the previous time Florida played Vancouver back in November.

He was again Sunday afternoon.

Luongo, now manning net for the Panthers, made 26 saves but gave up a goal to rookie Nicklas Jensen in the shootout as Vancouver beat the Panthers 4-3.

Jensen was recalled by the Canucks after Luongo left.

“It was normal. Once you get into the flow of things you’re really not thinking about those kind of things,” said Luongo, who was traded back to the Panthers less than two weeks ago after eight seasons with the Canucks.

“I knew right away it was going into a shootout. That’s just the destiny we have. What are you going to do? It takes perfect shots to beat goalies in the shootout and they got one. That was the difference.”

It almost didn’t get that far. Florida trailed 3-2 late in the third before getting a power play chance with 1:51 remaining.

The Panthers power play, improved of late, cashed in again as Jimmy Hayes camped in front of the net and deflected a hard shot from Brain Campbell. Eddie Lack, Luongo’s replacement, made the initial stop but Hayes stayed with it and pushed the puck through.

That forced overtime and gave the Panthers another chance.

“I was just trying to be big, be a pain in front,” said Hayes, who scored Florida’s first goal late in the opening period to give the Panthers the initial lead.

“I feel pretty good out there.”

Florida’s 1-0 lead didn’t last very long as the Canucks scored two quick goals before the end of the first. Dan Hamhuis tied it with a long shot from inside the blue line that avoided plenty of traffic in front. Moments later, Jensen got his second career goal to make it 2-1.

The Panthers knotted it again in the third as Vinnie Trocheck got his second goal in as many nights by wrapping the puck around and beating Lack 4:19 into the third.

But Alexandre Burrows, who ended with three points, gave the Canucks their lead back at 3-2 just over a minute later.

Florida had a great chance to tie it midway through the period only defenseman Kevin Bieksa made the save of the day on a Colby Robak shot soccer-style. The Panthers would have to wait a few more minutes to force overtime.

“We have a lot of new faces in the lineup,’’ coach Peter Horachek said. “There’s good conviction here. They’re trying to win every game.’’


Reigning rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau left the game in the second period with an undisclosed upper body injury and didn’t return.

The Panthers left his gear hanging in their locker room after the game while packing up the rest of the team. That would suggest Huberdeau was not on Florida’s charter flight to California on Sunday night.

Drew Shore could be called up from AHL San Antonio for the upcoming four-game west coast set.

• Scott Mellanby, the originator of the ‘Rat Trick’ back in 1995, was at Sunday’s game as part of the franchise’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Mellanby, Florida’s original captain in 1993, scored two goals in the Panthers’ season opener in 1995. Before the game, he one-timed a rat that was creeping through the old locker room at Miami Arena up against the wall. Fans soon started celebrating goals by throwing rubber rats onto the ice as a tradition was born.

“People still talk to me about that,” Mellanby said over the summer. “I love telling that story. Everyone remembers the rats.’’

The Panthers feted Mellanby by handing out bobbleheads in his likeness to the first 10,000 at Sunday’s game.

• Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, the top-ranked chess player in the United States, took part in a special chess day at the arena before Sunday’s game.

Hikaru received a key to the City of Sunrise as well as a custom-made Panthers game jersey. Hikaru dropped the first puck during pregame ceremonies.

• Florida placed defenseman Alex Petrovic (upper body) on injured reserve as it still has three injured players (Jesse Winchester, Erik Gudbranson and Sean Bergenheim) on the active roster.

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