SUNRISE, Fla. — Roberto Luongo spoke eloquently on the ice and then played brilliantly in net.
On a night when the Florida Panthers honored the victims of last week’s shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their veteran goalie delivered a stirring speech to the crowd during a somber pregame tribute.
Once the puck was dropped Thursday, he made 33 saves in his third game since returning from a groin injury to lead the Panthers to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.
“The first 10 minutes of the game was very difficult. I was not in a zone, that’s a good way to put it. Emotions were still running high from the ceremony,” said Luongo, who lives in Parkland, where the shooting occurred.
Vincent Trocheck scored the winning goal with 19.1 seconds left for Florida. With the score tied at 2, he redirected a shot by Jonathan Huberdeau past goaltender Braden Holtby during a power play.
Nick Bjugstad scored the tying goal for the Panthers late in the third period, and Maxim Mamin got his first NHL goal.
It was the first home game for the Panthers since the tragedy. They had been on a road trip in Canada for the past 11 days.
“We had little angels helping us tonight to help us pull out a big win here,” Luongo said.
Trocheck celebrated his go-ahead goal by encouraging fellow players to sign his stick. He plans on donating it to the students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“It was very emotional,” Trocheck said. “It was a powerful game. Powerful speech before the game by Lou. Powerful meaning behind the game. Team played great in the third period, showed a lot of character and to be able to put that in the net at the end of the game, it was exciting.”
Andre Burakovsky had a goal and an assist, and Lars Eller also scored for the Capitals. Holtby stopped 30 shots but lost his fifth straight.
Before the game, the arena video screen showed the names and faces of each of the 17 students who were killed on Valentine’s Day in nearby Parkland. The darkened ice was then illuminated with 17 circles of light, with a student’s name inside each one.
Players from both teams stood for the ceremony, some wiping tears from their eyes.
Luongo followed with an emotional address about how he has lived in Parkland for 12 years with his wife and children, and how much he loves the town. He lauded the bravery of those who lost their lives trying to save others and spoke about how inspiring the students have been in coping with the tragedy.
“Usually, sporting events start with a lot of fanfare and a lot of noise, and it wasn’t that,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It had some meaning to the people in this region, it had some meaning to the players on the other side, and it had some meaning to us. After he (Luongo) got through the first period, it settled into a hockey game.”
Florida players will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas logos on their helmets and MSD uniform patches for the remainder of the season.
“I thought Louie did a heck of a job with his speech and to get in net and to throw a performance out like that after, it was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a long time,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.
Bjugstad tied the game at 2 when he took a pass from Aleksander Barkov in front and poked in the puck with 3:42 left.
“The second goal they got a little fortunate on,” Holtby said. “I think he misplaced his pass and it went off his back foot. You just move on from those.”
Burakovsky’s power-play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 9:56 of the second. Alex Ovechkin fed the puck to Burakovsky in the slot, where he lined it up and fired a shot past Luongo.
Mamin gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 4:50 of the first period when he poked in the rebound of a shot by Ian McCoshen. Mamin’s goal was his first point in eight NHL games.
The Capitals tied it on Eller’s goal. Burakovsky took a shot from the high slot that glanced off Eller’s stick and in with 1:05 left in the first.
NOTES: Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, acquired from Chicago late Monday night, made his Washington debut. … The Panthers acquired forward Frank Vatrano from Boston for a third-round pick in this year’s draft. … RW Radim Vrbata was a healthy scratch for the eighth time in 11 games.
Capitals: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Panthers: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
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