Roberto Luongo reaches milestone as Florida Panthers topple Buffalo Sabres

By Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Roberto Luongo reached another milestone on Friday but was much more pleased to see his team's five-game losing streak come to an end.

Luongo made 24 saves to help lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. With the win, Luongo passed Curtis Joseph for fourth place all-time in wins by a goaltender with 455. On Tuesday, Luongo played in his 500th game with the Panthers.


"It's obviously nice but for me it's about getting wins and getting into the playoffs," Luongo said. "These accomplishments are for a rainy day when you're sitting at home and not doing much. But for right now the focus is on getting some points in the standings and winning some games."

Ian McCoshen scored the game-winner 3:50 into the third period. Evgenii Dadonov, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck also scored for Florida (5-8-2).


"It was probably our best defensive game of the year," Luongo said. "We kept them really quiet for about 50 minutes."

Luongo's best moment came with 6:32 remaining on a critical stop on a wrist shot by Sabres center Sam Reinhart.

McCoshen's game-winner came on a screen shot with plenty of traffic in front of Sabres goalie Robin Lehner. With Barkov and Justin Falk jockeying for position in front of the net, McCoshen's shot from the left point found the bottom corner of the net to put Florida on top.

"It took whatever it took to win the game. We stuck to our game plan and we're really happy for this win," McCoshen said.

Kyle Okposo scored the lone goal for the Sabres (5-9-2), who were unable to string together back-to-back wins after a victory on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. Lehner made 27 saves for the Sabres.

"You play a good, solid first period and you're doing the right things, making the right decisions and then the second period we made some poor choices," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "Turning pucks over and as a result they turn into penalties and more penalties. ... We didn't pay the price to get into the interior. We had a lot of opportunities from the point to shoot pucks."


Okposo opened the scoring on a power-play goal with 6:58 remaining in the first period. The right winger picked up his second goal of the season by deflecting Victor Antipin's shot from the right point.

Dadonov evened the score 6:52 into the second. Lehner made an initial stop but gave up a big rebound in front of the crease. After the goaltender lunged toward the puck and came up short, Dadonov put the puck into the open net for his seventh goal of the season.

Barkov and Trocheck added empty-net goals late.

Lehner was terrific throughout for the Sabres. After a poor giveaway by Antipin late in the first period, Lehner reached to come up with pad save on a short breakaway by Radim Vrbata. Lehner also came up big five minutes into the second period on back-to-back saves on Nick Bjugstad.

He didn't get much help from his teammates, however.

"We were coming off a really good game and we lay an egg for the last 40 minutes," Okposo said. "We've just got to find a way to be more consistent. I think it's everybody, especially our forwards. We bear the responsibility of that game tonight."


The Panthers have a chance to make it two wins a row with a quick turnaround. Florida is on the road against New Jersey Saturday night.

"It's been a while since we won one," Luongo said. "The first win is always the toughest one to get coming out of a slump. We've just got to try to build on it and the great thing is we get to play again tomorrow night and hopefully try to make it two in a row."

NOTES: D Josh Gorges, D Matt Tennyson and LW Matt Moulson were scratched for the Sabres. Gorges has missed time with a lower-body injury but is nearing a return. ... D Alex Petrovic, C Jared McCann (lower body) and G Antti Niemi were scratched for the Panthers. McCann is considered day-to-day. ... This was the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The next meeting takes place on Feb. 1 in Buffalo. ... Panthers coach Bob Boughner played for the Sabres from 1996-98 after being traded from Florida to Buffalo.

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