The last time the Panthers were here to face the Flyers — nearly a month ago — they had yet to win a game.
On that night they lost in a shootout, but felt they were on the verge of turning a corner.
Considered it turned, as the Panthers — carrying a four-game winning streak — broke a scoreless tie with second-period goals from Aaron Ekblad and Evgeni Dadonov, then got stellar third-period goaltending from Roberto Luongo to make it five in a row with a 2-1 win over the Flyers.
“Obviously (Luongo) made some key saves, but it’s a team win,” said Panthers’ coach Bob Boughner, as Florida won here for the first time since Dec. 18, 2014 and snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten streak in the process . “We got contributions from everybody — offense, defense and special teams.
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“This is a team that finished ahead of us for a playoff spot last year. So whether it’s game 15 or 82 they’re just as important. It’s a four-point game.
Consider that despite their current streak, the Panthers entered the night in the Atlantic Division cellar. This game was one they needed. Thanks in large part to Luongo, who had to face 16 shots in the third period after handling just 14 the first two periods combined, they got it.
“He was amazing,” gushed Boughner. “We didn’t give him a ton of work in the first two periods but he was our best player.”
The Flyers weren’t about to argue.
“He’s a great goalie,” said Philadelphia’s Jake Voracek, who got his team on the board 3:55 into the third, before he and his teammates spent the rest of the night being frustrated. “We had our chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t convert them.”
“We knew they were going to come after us in the third period and they were the better team in the third,” conceded Boughner, whose 7-5-3 team next heads to Columbus, followed by the Rangers and Ottawa. “But we’d had a couple of good periods before that which enabled us to hang on.”
Now can they continue to build off it?
“It’s a good feeling right now,” said Luongo, who did catch a break when Philadelphia’s Oskar Lindblom rang one off the post. “We’re confident no matter what the situation is.”
This is quite different from when the Panthers surrendered five second-period goals in a 6-5 shootout loss here on October 16.
“A lot of has changed,” admitted Boughner. “We’ve had some different line combinations and I think the guys are settled into the system and not doing as much thinking.
“Lou coming back gave us a huge boost. He really settles down the room with how he controls things and the way the guys respond to him.”
Exhibit A was here last night, as the Panthers pulled off a victory in a place where that seldom happens.