NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Roberto Luongo didn’t get too excited after his latest shutout. He is more concerned with getting the Florida Panthers back in the Stanley Cup playoff race.
Luongo made 28 saves for his 73rd career shutout, leading the Panthers to a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
“I want to get some wins and our goal is to make the playoffs,” Luongo said. “That’s what my focus is on, 100 percent.”
Luongo, tops among active goalies in shutouts, got his first of the season to move three behind Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for ninth all-time. Retired Devils great Martin Brodeur holds the NHL record with 125.
“We’re really happy for him,” said general manager and interim coach Tom Rowe. “It shows the longevity of what he’s done and how he’s gone about his business. An incredibly professional individual.”
Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trocheck scored for Florida, which won for the third time in five games and moved four points behind Philadelphia for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey was shut out for the third time this season, and for the first time at home since a 1-0 loss to Washington last March 25th. Cory Schneider finished with 26 saves for the Devils, who lost their third straight.
“We couldn’t generate (offensive zone) time and really break them down in their end,” Taylor Hall said. “It’s kind of been a theme for us all season.”
Both teams played conservatively, cognizant of eliminating the middle of the ice. As a result, the game was mostly played on the perimeter and there was little in the way of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
It took New Jersey rookie Pavel Zacha’s five-minute major for boarding Denis Malgin to set the stage for Smith to open the scoring.
Smith’s power play goal with 3:05 left in the first gave the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish. With 22 seconds left in the man advantage, Smith took a centering feed from Jokinen in the slot and fired a shot that Schneider stopped, but the New Jersey netminder couldn’t control the rebound, leading to Smith’s rebound goal for his eighth.
“It was a bit of a broken play,” Schneider said. “Tipped the pass in on the entry and I thought he might shoot it off the end wall. Made a nice play to Smith, who came in alone. I got the first one but couldn’t find the second one in time.”
Florida finished the game 1 for 6 on the man advantage, while killing off both New Jersey power plays.
Even though Luongo was not under siege — Florida finished with a 29-28 advantage in shots on goal — he was steadfast when he needed to be. His most noteworthy save occured with five minutes left in the second as he stopped Damon Severson’s attempt from the right point before Sergey Kalinin misfired from the low slot.
Jokinen and Trocheck added empty-netters in the final minute.
“We scored those two to ice the game,” Smith said. “But (we) had good (defensive) structure in the third period. We didn’t give them too much and we had smart puck placement.”
Florida swept the three-game season series after winning each of the first two meetings in overtime in the opening weeks of the season.
NOTES: With the NHL trade deadline 51 days away, scouts from the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens and expansion Vegas Golden Knights were in attendance. … Neither team was at full strength due to injuries and sickness to regulars. New Jersey was without D Andy Greene (upper body injury), D John Moore (concussion), C Jacob Josefson (illness) and C Vernon Fiddler (lower body). The Panthers were missing LW Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body), D Alex Petrovic (lower body), C Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed), C Seth Griffith and C Nick Bjugstad. … The Devils scratched D Yohann Auvitu and LW Luke Gazdic. … Florida scratched G Sam Brittain, D Dylan McIlrath and C Greg McKegg. … The announced attendance was 12,834.
Panthers: At the New York Islanders on Wednesday night to complete a two-game trip.
Devils: At Edmonton on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game trip. It will mark Taylor Hall’s first game in Edmonton since being acquired from the Oilers in the offseason.
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