Luongo leaves with injury in Panthers’ 2-1 shootout loss to Flyers

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

The Panthers’ flight home is likely going to feel a lot longer. Their quick 1-game road-trip to Philadelphia resulted in a shootout loss after a 1-0 lead went up in smoke late in the 3rd period, ending the Panthers’ 5-game road winning streak.

After a shootout victory two nights earlier at home, the Panthers were feeling good, especially after adding Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon.

Vanek joined the 3rd line with Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Marchessault, and although the trio didn’t produce a goal, the aforementioned Bjugstad had one of his best games of the season as he returned to his natural position at center. The 33-year old Vanek led the Panthers’ forwards in shots with 5 and nearly scored one occasions in the 3rd period.

The Panthers lone goal came in the 2nd period when Aaron Ekblad jumped up to intercept a pass by Claude Giroux in the neutral zone before making a nice move to get around him inside the blue-line and firing a slap-shot past goaltender Steve Mason for the first shorthanded goal of his career.

Ekblad tied his career-high for shots in a game with 9, which he set back on November 22nd against the very same Flyers. The goal made him the youngest defenseman in franchise history to score while shorthanded.

With the Panthers only able to score once in the 2nd period despite outshooting the Flyers 17-2, Valtteri Filppula, who was acquired by Philadelphia at the trade deadline a day earlier from Tampa, was able to tie things up at 1 half-way through the 3rd period on a redirection at the top of the blue paint.

A scoreless overtime sent the game to the shootout where Aleksander Barkov’s nifty backhander, which left Mason swimming in the crease, wasn’t enough to overcome goals by Jordan Weal and game-winner by Jakub Voracek.

James Reimer stopped 35 shots on 36 saves in relief of Roberto Luongo who left the game after the 1st period with an apparent lower-body injury. He’s expected to miss at least a week, so the Panthers have recalled Reto Berra from the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds to serve as Reimer’s back up.

Luongo stopped all 13 shots he faced before leaving the game.

The Panthers now have points in 11 of their last 13 games and are just 1 back of the Maple Leafs for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins, who lost in regulation on Thursday, are 3 points ahead of the Panthers for the third position in the Atlantic Division with one more game played.

Florida will return home to face the Dallas Stars on Saturday night for the second time this season after defeating them 3-1 on December 31st. Dallas has won just 3 of its last 8 games.

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