Panthers' Bjugstad scores 'em, Luongo stops 'em in win over Leafs

Panthers' Bjugstad scores 'em, Luongo stops 'em in win over Leafs

- in NHL
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Nick Bjugstad has carved out a spot among Florida’s top six forwards, and coach Bob Boughner expects him to stay there.

Bjugstad made a good case for himself Wednesday night.

The power forward scored the Panthers’ only goal in regulation and the game-winning goal in a shootout as Florida defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Game Wrap: Leafs score late, but Panthers win in shootout1:37

Bjugstad skated and held the puck until Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen was sprawled out, moved well to his right and flipped in his goal during the fourth round of the shootout.

The Panthers won the tiebreaker 2-1 after Aleksander Barkov scored for Florida, and Patrick Marleau was successful for Toronto.

‘Not a fluke’

Barkov scored by skating to the left, pulling the puck to his right and flipping a one-handed shot past Andersen.

“Those guys put time into that. It’s not a fluke. Those four or five guys practice those moves. It’s a huge goal for us,” said Boughner, who acknowledged he didn’t watch either Bjugstad or Barkov’s shots because he’s superstitious.

Vincent Trocheck and Henrik Haapala had assists for the Panthers (8-11-2).

Nazem Kadri netted a goal for Toronto (14-8-1), assisted by Connor Brown and Marleau.

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo made 43 saves and Andersen had 42.

Florida’s Roberto Luongo makes the save against Toronto’s Zach Hyman on Wednesday in the Panthers’ 2-1 shootout win. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Panthers controlled play in the first period, registering the game’s first 11 shots, but neither team broke through until Florida scored on an odd bounce at 15:16 of the second period deep in Toronto’s zone.

Behind the Toronto net and with his back to Andersen, Bjugstad backhanded a puck that deflected off Maple Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick’s skate and then Andersen’s stick.

The puck popped in for Bjugstad’s fifth goal and a 1-0 lead.

“I was just chopping at it, trying to get it in front of the net to Haapala, trying to feed him. It went off a skate or a stick and was in the back of the net,” Bjugstad said.

“It was a lucky goal but we’ll take it.”

Bjugstad gets ‘better and better’

Bjugstad has bounced from third-line centre to second-line right wing this season, but Boughner said he needs the 6’6″ Minnesota native to play in the top six and improve the rest of the season.

“I think he’s getting a little more comfortable on that right wing, and we need him to be a top-six guy and contribute offensively. He’s getting better and better,” the first-year Florida coach said.

Trocheck got the primary assist on the goal, but the secondary helper went to Haapala, who was making his NHL debut after being called up in the morning from the team’s AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Kadri tied it 1-1 at 13:58 of the third period after the Maple Leafs gained control of a loose puck at centre ice and sent Brown out leading a two-on-one break.

Brown slipped a pass from the left side to Kadri, who scored his 11th goal on a high shot over Luongo from the right circle.

“I liked our second and I liked our third [periods]. I didn’t think our first was good enough. Luongo was really sharp,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

Maple Leafs Panthers Hockey

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly catches Florida’s Chase Balisy with his head down on Wednesday. (Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press)

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