The Panthers made history on Tuesday night, and for once, the results were positive.
Florida and Washington went 20 rounds into a shootout — the longest in NHL history — with the Panthers getting a goal from Nick Bjugstad to pull out a 2-1 victory at BB&T Center.
“There are some nights you just feel you deserve to win,’’ said Derek MacKenzie, who scored Florida’s only “real’’ goal in the opening period.
“I was getting nervous.’’
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Before Tuesday night, the longest shootout in league history was a 15-round affair between the Rangers and Washington soon after the league implemented the shootout format to break ties in 2005.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,’’ said goalie Roberto Luongo, who stopped 15 shots in the shootout after making 23 in 65 minutes of play.
“I don’t know how many times our guys had to bail me out and score after they scored. But they did every time. It’s amazing. ... It’s a huge win for our club. It’s not the way you draw it up.’’
Said coach Gerard Gallant: “That was exciting and everyone loved that one, especially with Bjugstad winning it. Everyone got a chance to shoot, and we got a huge two points. Everyone is happy.’’
Florida doubled its previous franchise-long shootout run after going 10 rounds with these Capitals last season.
On Tuesday, for the first time since the NHL instituted the shootout, the two teams ran through their 18 shooters and were able to give players a second crack at it.
Tied 5-5 after 18 rounds, Florida went back to Jussi Jokinen — who matched Alex Ovechkin’s goal in the fourth round.
Jokinen didn’t score in Round 19, but Ovechkin didn’t in Round 20 either as Luongo made his 15th shootout save.
Bjugstad ended up setting off the victory celebration by roofing a shot past Braden Holtby.
It was just another one-goal victory for the Panthers, eh? Well, not quite.
“We’ve been in quite a few of them,’’ Bjugstad said. “We just have to keep them close like that.’’
Florida has now been in 21 one-goal games of 29 and has secured a point in all but two of them.
The Panthers, now 11-2-8 in one-goal games, took a 1-0 lead when MacKenzie jumped all over a soft clearing pass from Washington’s Mike Green and buried it.
Washington wouldn’t answer until its top-ranked power play connected with Dylan Olsen sitting in the box off a holding call.
Troy Brouwer made it 1-1 after he took a slick pass from Ovechkin and shot.
Willie Mitchell, Florida’s captain who was the final forward to shoot in the initial shootout lineup, blocked the shot, but Brouwer was able to corral it and put it past Luongo.
The two teams played scoreless hockey the rest of the way, although it appeared Washington took a late lead — and probably the victory — when Brooks Laich scored with 3:08 left.
Only Laich kicked the goal in soccer-style which is a no-no in the NHL. The league reviewed it in Toronto and declared it a no goal.
The Panthers had new life and didn’t squander it.
Florida has now won its past two shootout games and improved to 3-4 this season and 4-8 in overtime contests.
And Tuesday’s showdown was pretty memorable.
“How exciting was that?,’’ television analyst Denis Potvin yelled as he left the broadcast booth.
The Panthers activated forwards Scottie Upshall and Aleksander Barkov off the injury list before Tuesday’s game.
Upshall missed nine games with a knee and ankle injury; Barkov missed six after blocking a shot with his hand in Columbus.
To make room on the roster, Florida placed Shawn Thornton (groin) on IR.
The Panthers also benched Brandon Pirri and Vincent Trocheck so Upshall and Barkov could get back into the lineup.
“I feel very good right now, I’m ready to go,’’ Barkov said. “I’m very happy. I have a new stick too.’’
▪ In Florida’s previous shootout win last week in Detroit, the Panthers needed only two rounds to win with Pirri and Trocheck both scoring. Tuesday, neither were available as they were scratched.
Barkov (Round 6) and Upshall (Round 9) both were stopped on their attempts with Barkov kicking his attempt off his skate.