Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo helps Florida Panthers win fourth in a row

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) covers up the puck after a shot by Nashville Predators center Calle Jarnkrok (19), of Sweden, as Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) defends in second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn.
Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) covers up the puck after a shot by Nashville Predators center Calle Jarnkrok (19), of Sweden, as Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) defends in second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. AP

Florida's past couple of games haven't been the prettiest but they sure have been efficient.

And quite successful, as well.

Thursday, the Panthers extended their winning streak to four as they snuffed out one chance after another in a 2-1 win at Bridgestone Arena.

This winning streak is the longest since interim coach Peter Horachek's group won five straight in 2013. Thursday's win was also Florida's first in Nashville since the second year of the Predators franchise in 1999.

"It's a great win for us,'' coach Gerard Gallant said.

Much of the credit for Florida's win Thursday goes to goalie Roberto Luongo who made 32 stops with 27 coming in the final 40 minutes.

"We had our foot on the gas pedal but dug a hole we couldn't get out of,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

In the first period, Nashville took aim at the goal just five times yet got things going in the second and third but Luongo and the Florida defense, for the most part, stood up to the challenge.

"You want t get on a bit of a roll, get some points,'' Luongo said. "We've had some great tests on this road trip, won some gritty games. This is the type of hockey you want to be playing.''

The Panthers didn't create much offense in the first period either, taking seven shots on goal, yet took a 1-0 lead into the first break.

Quinton Howden took a Sasha Barkov pass off the side boards, charged in on goalie Pekka Rinne and scored with 5:01 left in the period.

"When you have Luongo holding you in there like that, you just want to keep it simple,'' Howden said.

In the second, Florida cashed in with a pair of rarities: A road power play goal which came off the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau.

Huberdeau came into the night with only one goal this season (it came in his 16th game). Thursday, Huberdeau scored his first in nine games and second this season by beating Rinne late in Florida's lone power play chance of the night to make it 2-0.

"It felt good, especially to come in a close game like that,'' Huberdeau said. "They were all over us in the second and third. This was two points we needed. It was nice to help the team.''

The Panthers entered the game with the 29th-ranked road power play in the league, scoring just three goals.

Nashville cut its deficit in half off Roman Josi's deflection but couldn't do anything else against Luongo and a Florida defense which bottled things up and kept the big chances to a minimum until Nashville pulled Rinne in the final minutes.

Nashville almost tied it with 31.3 seconds left, but Cody Hodgson's deflection hit the cage and bounced out.

"Tonight wasn't our best game but we found a way to get two points,'' Gallant said. "Luongo was huge. Nashville is a team that creates a lot of chances with their speed and their attack. We made some really good saves. To win in Nashville, you have to have good goaltending.''

▪ Jaromir Jagr caused quite a stir on Twitter on Wednesday when he sent out a message asking fans not to vote for him for the upcoming All-Star Game to be held in Nashville.

Jagr is fourth in voting for the Atlantic Division as the format of the game changes to a series of 3-on-3 periods.

“I appreciate your votes for All-Star game,” Jagr wrote, “but 3-on-3 would kill me, and I don’t want to die yet. Thank you for understanding. Too old.”

Jagr backed up that statement Thursday in Nashville saying he would have loved to play such a format years ago but not now. Jagr is part of Florida’s 3-on-3 overtime unit.

“It’s too much for me,” said Jagr, who turns 44 on Feb. 15.

“Fifteen years ago, OK. Not at 44. [3-on-3] is good for the NHL, there’s a lot of scoring chances and that’s what NHL fans have wanted to see.”

▪ Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is expected to be cleared to rejoin the lineup Friday in Columbus after suffering a minor knee injury Nov. 14 at Tampa Bay.

Friday: Panthers at Blue Jackets

When/where: 7 p.m.; Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WNMA 1210.

Series: Columbus leads 13-5-0.

Scouting report: With the Panthers playing on back-to-back nights, backup goalie Al Montoya is expected to get the call. Florida has only won twice in Columbus in nine tries and not since 2007.

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