Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo injured in Panthers’ win over Hurricanes

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) deflects the puck as defenseman Willie Mitchell (33) and Carolina Hurricanes right wing Andrej Nestrasil (15) look on in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) deflects the puck as defenseman Willie Mitchell (33) and Carolina Hurricanes right wing Andrej Nestrasil (15) look on in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Sunrise, Fla. AP

Nick Bjugstad gave the Panthers a lead by scoring 21 seconds into Wednesday's game.

Thanks to some terrific goaltending from Roberto Luongo and backup Al Montoya, that goal stood up as Florida beat visiting Carolina 1-0 at BB&T Center.

Montoya was forced into service midway through the second period when Luongo left with what the team is calling an 'upper body' injury.

Montoya made 22 saves in picking up the save. Neither goalie gets credit for the shutout but Luongo gets the win.

"He came in cold and came out hot,'' Bjugstad said of Montoya's play. "We have two really good goaltenders here.''

According to general manager Dale Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant, Luongo's injury isn't considered serious although more will be known Thursday.

Tallon said he hadn't thought of calling up Dale Ellis from Florida's minor league affiliate in San Antonio.

"Louie's fine,'' Gallant said. "Everything the trainers told me is that it isn't serious.''

Florida took its quick lead on its first push up the ice when Bjugstad (six goals, three assists and a shootout winner in past six games) jumped on a loose puck and beat Cam Ward (27 saves).

The Panthers dominated play in the opening period but couldn't match Bjugstad's marker and went into the break up just one.

"We let up off the pedal,'' Bjugstad said. "We found a way to win and our goaltenders helped us. We have to find a way to gut games out. We found a way to win. That's the biggest thing.''

Carolina seemed to wake up in the second and Luongo was hurt making a poke save -- one of his five in the first 10:22 of work in the period.

Moments later, Luongo sprawled out and made perhaps his prettiest save of the season by robbing Victor Rask.

While on his back, Luongo stretched out and made a terrific glove save on a Rask shot. Luongo tried to continue and played three-plus minutes but came out at the next timeout.

"That was an unbelievable save,'' Gallant said. "It was a highlight reel one for sure.''

Carolina came hard at Montoya but couldn't put a puck through.

"It's a game of momentum,'' Bjugstad said. "When the backup comes in, you want to pepper him, want to see what he's got. Luckily I was able to answer the bell.''

The Hurricanes outshot Florida 17-5 in the final period and Montoya was named the game's top star. Bjugstad came in second and Ward finished third in the balloting.

"Louie has been so good for us, it's hard to see him go down with an injury,'' Montoya said.

"For me, it was just believing in my game. I've been working hard, working with the goalie coach and it's knowing what I can do and contributing when I get the chance.''

Said Gallant: "He made a lot of great saves and I'm sure that's good for his confidence in the next game. You hate to lose your starting goaltender, but when your backup comes in and plays like that, you know he'll be ready to go the next time out. You're happy about that.''

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