Florida Panthers drop Winnipeg Jets for Finnish split
Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist and the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Friday for a two-game split in the Finnish capital.
Roberto Luongo was just happy to finally be back on the ice for the Panthers.
“It’s just nice to be back part of the team,” Luongo said. “It’s never fun to be on the sideline watching the game. I put in a lot of work and I’m happy I was able to play a game.”
Returning from a knee injury that sidelined him since the season opener, the 39-year-old Luongo stopped 32 shots to help Florida beat the Jets on Friday night.
“That was huge for us,” Florida coach Bob Boughner said. “Watching him play so composed after being off for a month, he is a big reason why we won the game tonight.”
Luongo was hurt Oct. 6 against Tampa Bay.
Luongo stopped all 17 shots in the final period as the Jets pressed.
“He gives us a lot of confidence and he’s telling us what to do, talks a lot on the ice and off the ice,” said captain Aleksander Barkov, who is Finnish.
Keith Yandle and Evgeni Dadonov had a goal and an assist each for the Panthers. Mike Hoffman and Frank Vatrano also scored a goal apiece and Jonathan Huberdeau added two assists. The Panthers overcame an early 2-1 deficit for their first regulation victory and third overall win in the first 11 games.
“Our start wasn’t very good, actually it was pretty awful, our start,” Boughner said. “They tested him (Luongo) early and he was really good and I think that gave us time to get feet underneath of us and start rolling a little bit. That’s what good goalies do, they make the saves at the right time.”
Coming off a hat trick Thursday night in Winnipeg’s 4-2 victory, Finnish star Patrik Laine scored again In front of a capacity crowd of 13,500 at Hartwall Arena. Nikolaj Ehlers also connected, and captain Blake Wheeler had two assists.
“Overall, it’s been an unreal trip,” Laine said. “I’m going to remember every second that we spent here for the rest of my life. The atmosphere at the rink was unreal for the both games. It was a pleasure to play in front of the Finnish fans, friends and family.”
Yandle broke a tie on a power play with 26 seconds left in the second period, driving a slap shot past goalie Connor Hellebuyck
Hoffman tied it on a power play at 4:59 of the second.
Vatrano scored off a turnover midway through the third.
NOTES: The games were part of the NHL Global Series. It was the 25th NHL regular season game played on the European continent, and the seventh in Finland. In October, New Jersey beat Edmonton in Gothenburg, Sweden. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL is planning to play a season-opening game in Prague and another two games in Stockholm next season. … Laine, who had 44 goals last season, had three goals in 12 games this season before adding four in the two games in Helsinki. … Hoffman has a point in each of the past nine games.
Panthers: Open a three-game homestand against Edmonton on Thursday night.
Jets: Open a four-game homestand against Colorado on Friday night.
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