Any goalies in the house? Panthers lose 2 in one game
Sunrise, Fla. — In a disastrous turn of events, the Panthers' playoff hopes received a severe blow during Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs when both their goalies were forced from the game with injuries.
It got so bad at one point that veteran center Derek MacKenzie was ready to put the goalie pads on until the NHL approved the request made by Panthers general manager Dale Tallon to dress 41-year-old goalie coach Robb Tallas.
However, both starting goalie Roberto Luongo and backup Al Montoya (Michigan) played hurt. But it wasn't enough as a slow-moving Montoya was unable to reach Peter Holland's rebound tally at 5:28 to spoil the Panthers' bid to tie the idle Boston Bruins for the final wild-card playoff berth.
After morning skate Tuesday, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was asked how to tell his team to avoid complacency against the 27th-ranked Maple Leafs, who hadn't won a road game since New Year's Eve.
"You know they're due," Gallant said.
Not even Gallant could've foreseen the loss of both goalies as the Maple Leafs ended a franchise-record 16-game road losing streak and the Panthers' two-game winning streak ended.
"We were really concerned. We were playing a pretty good game and boom-boom, you lose two goalies quick," Gallant said. "Fortunately, both returned and Robbie didn't have to go in there. There was a lot of confusion."
Apparently the officials weren't allowing MacKenzie to play goalie because he was listed as a forward. But Rule 5.3 states that any available goalie was eligible.
Luongo took a shot in the neck or shoulder/neck area from Leo Komarov with 4:13 left in the first period. He remained on the ice for a few minutes with trainer Dave Zenobi, but stayed in until the end of the period led 1-0 by the Panthers. He had 16 saves and was replaced by Montoya to start the second.
Then with the Panthers leading 2-1 after two periods, Jake Gardiner's long slapper caromed off the backboards and went behind Montoya to tie it 2-2 just 22 seconds in. Nazrem Kadri poked it in and Montoya sustained a groin injury.
The Panthers will most likely recall veteran goalie Dan Ellis from San Antonio. Ellis is 22-11-3 with a 2.70 goals-against-average for the Rampage.
After several minutes in the dressing room, Montoya returned to the ice. But 3:22 later, he was called to the bench. A discussion ensued between Tallon, Zenobi and Luongo, who was in street clothes before he returned with 9:08 left in regulation with Tallas, who last played in the NHL in 2001, as the backup.
"Never happened," said Panthers' wing Jaromir Jagr, who has played 1,533 NHL games. "Tough luck. Such an important game, too. We got to battle through it. Bad timing."
Jimmy Hayes patiently held the puck before slipping it to Brandon Pirri in the high slot where he wristed it past Jonathan Bernier for his 12th goal, including nine in his last 12 games.
"After that delay we got to do more to help Montoya out. He stuck his neck out for us," Pirri said. "We have to play through it."
A too-many-men on the ice penalty gave the Leafs a power play and they took advantage of it when Tyler Bozak swatted in a rebound of Phil Kessel's shot to tie it 1-1 at 4:40 of the second.
That snapped the Leafs' goal drought at 163:18, as they were blanked 4-0 on the first two games of their four-game road trip by the Canadiens and Capitals.
The Panthers countered with a power-play goal of their own when Jonathan Huberdeau's pass was deflected by Hayes to Aaron Ekblad for a one-time straightaway 50-foot slapper from his knee with just nine seconds left on Kessel's hooking penalty at 13:12.
Ekblad's second goal in two games gives him 11 to surpass Ed Jovanovski's 1996 franchise record for most goals by a defenseman in their rookie season.