Mon, Feb 20, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Florida extend win streak to four with victory over Kings

AP, LOS ANGELES

The Florida Panthers’ offense keeps on firing, but it was the defense that has them back in the playoff picture.

Aleksander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal 15 seconds into the third period and Roberto Luongo made 33 saves as the Panthers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Saturday night for their fourth straight win.

Jussi Jokinen and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers, who have won seven of eight. Florida are tied with Boston for third in the Atlantic Division and lead Toronto for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference by one point.

“The playoff race in the East is so darn close, there is a lot to play for, but what we’re really happy about is how we get the goal, obviously, on the first shift and played real solid defense the rest of the way,” Florida interim head coach Tom Rowe said.

To start the third, Barkov raced ahead of three Kings and put a backhand shot past Peter Budaj, reclaiming momentum and the lead after Los Angeles had roared back to tie it in the second period.

From there, the Panthers protected their advantage with a sound, smothering defense that had been lacking for part of the season.

The Panthers’ defense has done that throughout the season and stifled three Los Angeles power plays and allowed four shots total.

“We got our players back. Everybody is playing the minutes and the roles they were supposed to play early in the year,” said Jokinen, who put the Panthers ahead 2-0 1 minute, 14 seconds into the second before the Kings tied it in the same period.

Dwight King and Tanner Pearson each scored and Budaj made 22 saves for the Kings, who are two points behind Calgary for the second wild card in the Western Conference.

King scored 5 minutes, 39 seconds into the second. Luongo could not handle his shot with Kings center Nick Shore and Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic crashing the crease, which Rowe challenged unsuccessfully for interference.

Pearson then got Luongo moving to his left with some clever puck handling, exploiting the subsequent gap between the goalie’s legs to score his 19th of the season and third in as many games.

“We chased the lead again,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Battled back, played hard. We were a little short on a couple of forwards, shortened the bench a little too much.”

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