Roberto Luongo’s 30 saves not enough to elevate Panthers to victory against Maple Leafs
TORONTO (AP) — Frederik Andersen could sense this was going to be a low-scoring game without many chances. He was right — and he was sharp when it counted.
“These are always fun,” Andersen said. “The game was tough from the beginning. I think the ice was a little tough.”
The shutout was Andersen’s career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie reached 30 wins for the third time.
Andersen also improved to 7-0-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and two shutouts this season when facing 40 or more shots.
Opponents are taking note of his elevated game.
“Especially this year, he’s really taken his game to another level,” Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Obviously in the top tier of goaltenders in the league now, and he’s giving his team a chance to win every night.”
Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 overall and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.
The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida threatened in the third with Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers’ best chance — a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.
Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss.
“I thought both goaltenders were really hot tonight,” said Jonathan Huberdeau. “I think in the third we had some pressure, we got a lot of chances, but it didn’t go in. It’s a tough loss.”
Andersen is the fifth Maple Leafs goaltender to register multiple shutouts when making at least 40 saves since 1955-56 when the NHL began counting shots on goal as an official statistic.
“I think a huge part of it is fitness,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “He did a real nice job this summer and so he’s just building off of confidence. I think last year, if I’m not mistaken, was the first time he’s ever really been the starter.
“So, you go through that and you get comfortable and you get comfortable with your teammates and it just goes from there.”
With 28 seconds left in the first period, van Riemsdyk beat Luongo between the legs with a shot from the faceoff dot for his 25th goal of the season. Jake Gardiner had an assist for his 200th NHL point.
“In a lot of those situations, there’s not a lot of time so you just want to try to get it off as quick as you can,” van Riemsdyk said. “To say I was shooting there would probably be a lie. I was just trying to throw it on the net and get it there quick and it went in, thankfully.”
Patrick Marleau nearly made it a two-goal game 1:02 into the third by finishing off a 2-on-1 feed from Mitch Marner, but couldn’t beat the right pad of Luongo.
With 2:40 remaining, Leo Komarov‘s shot beat Luongo but rang off the post.
The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 22 in the only previous meeting between the teams this season. Toronto visits Florida on Feb. 27.
The Maple Leafs traded forward Eric Fehr to San Jose for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick. The move drops Toronto to 48 contracts and gives general manager Lou Lamoriello added flexibility before next week’s trade deadline. . Marleau (1,555) passed Jarome Iginla for 12th place on the NHL’s career list for games played. . Yandle played in his 800th career game. The 31-year-old defenseman owns the NHL’s longest active streak with 689 consecutive games played.
Panthers: Host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Maple Leafs: Continue their three-game homestand Thursday night against the New York Islanders.
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