Roberto Luongo stands tall as Panthers hold off Coyotes
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Scottie Upshall helped give the Florida Panthers their first home win of the season.
Upshall scored at 10:56 of the third period and Roberto Luongo made 32 saves as the Panthers earned a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Upshall saw the play developing after Derek MacKenzie blocked a shot from the point on the penalty kill. He intercepted a pass and passed it to Tomas Kopecky right after he was leaving the penalty box.
Kopecky passed it back to him on the left wing and Upshall made a nice move on Coyotes goalie Mike Smith before lifting the backhand into the back of the net.
"To be honest I had a plan before the game with a breakaway, but it wasn’t what I used. This was something that I kind of had I guess in the back pocket," said Upshall of his fake on Smith.
"You always in the back of your mind wonder what you’re going to do if that puck kind of squirts free on a PK like that and Kopey made a great pass. He hit me last year with one like that and it was a big goal for us and a big PK for our team."
The announced crowd on Thursday was 7,691, which was just 380 more than the franchise record low of 7,311 that watched the Panthers’ game against Ottawa on Oct. 13th.
"We’re battling hard as a team right now, which is nice. I think defensively, we’re playing really well," Luongo said. "Our forwards are back-checking hard, putting pressure on the other team and our defensemen are doing a great job of playing the net.
"We’re not scoring many goals but that’s OK. If we play well in our systems we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night. The goals will come eventually."
Brandon Pirri tied the game in the second period with a power-play goal from the slot at 5:37 of the second period, with Jussi Jokinen and Erik Gudbranson getting the assists.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith stopped 24 of 26 shots.
Martin Hanzal scored for Arizona at 17:27 of the first period on the power play on assists from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle.
"There’s lot of try there," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Smith was very good tonight. But our execution still has to improve if we’re going to create more chances to score. We lost on a bad break. Good blocked shot and guy happened to be stepping out of the box. The breaks go against you sometimes. Lots of try, not a lot of finish in our game."
NOTE: The Panthers are back at home Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. … Arizona continues its four-game road trip at the Carolina Hurricanes.