By Nick Wells, The Canadian Press on December 15, 2023.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks celebrated goaltender Roberto Luongo’s career with a shutout win over the Florida Panthers.
Thatcher Demko saved all 36 shots in the 4-0 win with Luongo watching on – albeit as a member of the Panthers front office – after the Canucks inducted him into the team’s Ring of Honour.
“It’s poetic, right? It’s almost in the air,” said Demko, who also took part in a ceremonial faceoff with Sergei Bobrovsky, his Florida counterpart.
Dakota Joshua scored twice, Andrei Kuzmenko converted the winning goal and Brock Boeser buried his 22nd goal of the season to stretch his point streak to eight straight games for Vancouver (20-9-1).
Demko admitted he didn’t grow up as a Luongo fan, having supported the L.A. Kings as a kid, but he added that the Montreal native set an example for others to follow.
“Obviously he was the best in that time period, just the way he competed and set an example for his teammates,” Demko said. “As I come through Vancouver now in my career, hearing the legacy he left here off the ice and trying to follow his footsteps off the ice, big shoes to fill, but I’m doing the best I can.”
Bobrovsky stopped 13 of 17 before Anthony Stolarz took over the net in the third period and stopped the single shot he faced.
Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet said he was pleased with his team’s performance but added that it’s just one more step forward in its progression.
“We’re still trying to establish our identity. We’re chipping away at it and trying to be a hard team to play against, being smart in our own end,” he said. “We’re still learning. There’s still some times when we’re giving the puck away when we shouldn’t but I think that’s part of the maturation to get to the next level.”
Florida (17-10-2) and its offence sputtered in the second with only six shots on goal, but roared back in the third by throwing 15 at Demko in search of a breakthrough.
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said after the game that onlookers shouldn’t take too much stock in the team being held scoreless in back-to-back games after also losing 4-0 to the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.
“We weren’t very good here tonight but in a highly unusual way and I’ll take solace in that fact,” he said. “We have a handful of things that we do well, none of what you got to see tonight.”
The Panthers had not been consecutively shut out since Oct. 18 and 20, 2011.
Kuzmenko opened the scoring at 4:03 of the first period after a pass from Conor Garland sprang him free. The Russian forward found the net glove side on Bobrovsky.
The Canucks doubled their lead when Joshua received a centring pass from Teddy Blueger, spun and hit the puck top shelf against Bobrovsky with less than seven minutes left in the first period.
Joshua scored his second of the night after Bobrovsky went to go clear the puck but ended up passing it straight to the waiting Canucks forward who had an easy tap in.
“Garland was taking away the left side so I knew his options were kind of limited there,” he said. “I just happened to guess the right way and he passed it to me and I don’t know if they get any easier than that.”
Demko’s every save was cheered with a chorus of “Lou” in honour of Luongo.
The Canucks offence died off in the third period, recording a single shot as they worked to hold on to the win.
NOTES: Canucks forward Pius Suter was activated from injured reserve after being placed on it on Nov. 24 “¦ The Canucks are undefeated when leading after two periods.
UP NEXT: The Canucks travel to Saint Paul, Minn., to take on the Minnesota Wild on Saturday as part of a four-game road trip “¦ The Panthers were last held scoreless in back-to-back games in 2011.
The Panthers will play the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023.