Panthers’ Luongo gets 67th shutout, 1-0 vs Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres just can’t seem to score against Roberto Luongo
Luongo stopped 26 shots for his 67th career shutout — fourth against Buffalo — to lead the Florida Panthers to a 1-0 win over the Sabres on Friday night for their first victory of the season.
Luongo, who moved past Patrick Roy into sole possession of 13th place on the career shutouts list, extended his scoreless streak against the Sabres to 183 minutes, 19 seconds.
“It’s crazy,” Luongo said. “I don’t know if it’s a comfort level thing or whatnot, but it’s nice especially to get our first win like that.”
Sean Bergenheim scored in the second period for the game’s only goal, sending an odd-angled wrist shot between Mike Weber’s legs and past Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Enroth finished with 34 saves for Buffalo.
Florida coach Gerard Gallant got his first win with the Panthers.
“It’s good,” Gallant said. “It’s not fun when you lose but it’s a fresh year. Still a bit of a slower start but this is a big road trip to get things going the right way.”
The Panthers had the first six shots of the game before Buffalo went on a power play and forced Luongo into his first two saves of the night.
A giveaway in his own slot by Marcus Foligno gave Tomas Fleischmann a 1-on-1 with Enroth midway through the first, but the Sabres’ goalie made a right pad save to keep the game scoreless.
Luongo was called upon to make a pair of close-range shots on Matt Moulson early in the second.
Foligno had a wraparound attempt in the third period’s first minute, but Luongo slid over to stop the puck with his left pad.
“You got that guy back there and your team is so much more confident,” said Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson. “He made really good saves all night. It’s amazing how he tracks the puck within those scrambles and is able to come up with pretty key saves.”
The Sabres wasted a prime opportunity when they had a 5-on-3 power play for 49 seconds in the third period. Luongo made a pair of saves before Erik Gudbranson’s penalty expired, then three more by the time Chris Stewart ended the power play by taking down Upshall in the slot.
″(Luongo) made four, five saves in the third period, like real key saves for us,” Gallant said. “Especially that 3-on-5 when the guys did a great job killing that so those were definitely key points in the hockey game and I thought our group stood up real good.”
Buffalo again had a slow start, with just three first-period shots on goal, and failed to build on Tuesday’s win in Carolina.
“We’re definitely not happy,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “No one’s going to help us get out of this thing except for ourselves. We got a good group of guys. We just got to learn we have to compete and we have to work. We’re not a fancy team.”
With Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart, the game also marked the earliest season match-up between the NHL’s No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks since 1997, when Boston’s Joe Thornton and San Jose’s Patrick Marleau faced off.
Luongo, drafted No. 4 overall that year, began the day with a 1.93 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 19 career games against the Sabres.
He shut out the Sabres in his first game with Florida on March 7 after blanking Buffalo with Vancouver exactly a year ago.
The Sabres haven’t scored against the Panthers in 132:24, dating back three games to Jan. 21.
Florida has now won four straight games against the Sabres, and four straight in Buffalo.
The Sabres have lost all three home games to start the season after losing their first nine last season, a franchise worst.
“When things ain’t going good, our confidence kind of lacks a little bit,” Nolan said. “I don’t think we put two passes together all night long. Our confidence is a little bit rattled.”