SUNRISE, Fla. – The Vancouver Canucks were not surprised that their game against former goalie Roberto Luongo came down to a shootout.
Nicklas Jensen scored in the first period and added the only goal in the shootout and the Canucks earned a 4-3 victory over Luongo and the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
“It’s fitting that it goes down to a shootout against him,” said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “He (Luongo) and Eddie (Lack) were joking about having it end in a 0-0 tie and just calling it a game, but we had other plans.”
Alex Burrows had a goal and two assists and Dan Hamhuis also scored for the Canucks. Eddie Lack made 26 saves.
Jimmy Hayes scored two power-play goals for the Panthers. Vincent Trocheck also scored and Luongo stopped 29 shots.
Luongo faced his former team just 12 days after being traded from the Canucks to the Panthers on March 4. Luongo is 2-3 since joining the Panthers.
Lack stopped all three shots in the shootout and won against Luongo, his former teammate.
“I challenged him to a goalie fight when we chatted before the game but he didn’t want to go,” Lack joked. “It was strange to see him at the other end of the ice, but I’m sure he felt the same way looking down at our end. It was a huge win for us. Every win is important right now.”
Luongo was dealt along with forward Steven Anthony to Florida in exchange for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias. This is Luongo’s second stint with the Panthers, whom he played for from 2000-06.
Luongo was glad to get the much anticipated game out of the way.
“It was a fun night to be part of. Either way I’m fine with it,” Luongo said. “I was looking forward to playing against the boys. Now that it’s done you just focus on the rest of the season and into next year.”
Luongo holds no ill feelings toward his former teammate and fellow goaltender. The Canucks won for just the fourth time in 17 games and are 3-4 since they traded Luongo.
“I wanted him to play well given what’s been going on since I’ve been gone,” Luongo said. “I was happy for him, especially that he was able to make some big saves in OT there for their team.”
Jensen’s shootout goal hit the crossbar and bounced down behind the goal line.
“I talked to some of the guys and they told me to go upstairs and it went it,” Jensen said.
The Canucks are 5-7 in shootouts this season.
“That’s just the way it’s been,” Canucks coach John Tortorella said. “We’ve been on the other side of these things. Good for Eddie Lack, and Jensen. It’s not Picasso, that’s for sure, but it’s nice to grind away and scratch and claw and get the two points.”
It seemed as if the Canucks were going to win in regulation, but Hayes tied the game at 3 on his second goal during a power play with 1:35 left. Brian Campbell’s shot was deflected by Hayes, blocked by Lack, then Hayes was able to poke in his own rebound.
Trailing 2-1, the Panthers tied it at 2 on Trocheck’s goal at 4:19 of the third. Trocheck brought the puck around the back of the net and was able to sneak it past Lack on the wraparound.
It wasn’t long before the Canucks regained the lead. Burrows was able to stuff in a rebound on the power play to make the score 3-2 at 5:34.
The Panthers nearly tied it at 10:47 of the third but a shot by Colby Robak was kicked out of the crease by Bieksa.
“It was probably harder on Louie than it was on anybody else because he sees his new team in front of him and his old team standing there across the way.” Panthers coach Peter Horacheck said. “I?think that he handled it pretty well.”
A quiet first period ended with three goals scored in the final 3 1/2 minutes, two by Vancouver.
The Panthers went ahead 1-0 on a power-play goal by Hayes. Tom Gilbert shot from the slot and Hayes deflected it off his stick at 16:28. It was the eighth power-play goal in the past 12 games for the Panthers.
The Canucks scored twice in less than a minute. Hamhuis’ shot from the point glanced off the skate of defenceman Robak and into the net to tie it at 1 at 17:42.
Jensen fired a one-timer from the high slot that beat Luongo on the glove side to make it 2-1 at 18:35. It was Jensen’s second NHL goal. His first came in Friday’s 4-3 loss at Washington.
NOTES: Panthers C Jonathan Huberdeau left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period and didn’t return. … F Sean Bergenheim missed his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … The Canucks are 4-12-1 in their past 17 games and have allowed 28 goals in their past eight games.