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Luongo loses shutout with just 35 seconds left

3/8/2003

ATLANTA (AP) -- Roberto Luongo flopped all over the ice, stopping
one shot after another. Even without his stick, he couldn't be
beaten.

The Florida goalie blocked 40 shots, coming within 35 seconds of
a shutout, and the Panthers held on for a 2-1 victory over the
Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.

''He dominated that game,'' Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.
''Luongo is by far the best young goalie in the league. He proved
it tonight.''

Kristian Huselius and Mathieu Biron both scored for Florida,
which got its goals in the second period. Biron scored for the
first time this season while Florida was short-handed, and Matt
Cullen assisted on both goals.

Atlanta had rallied from a two-goal deficit the previous night
at Washington, finishing the longest road trip of the season at
2-3-2. But the Thrashers couldn't pull off another comeback in
their first game in Philips Arena since Feb. 17.

With the goalie pulled, Atlanta finally beat Luongo on Ilya
Kovalchuk's 32nd goal -- a wicked wrist shot off a faceoff with 35.3
seconds remaining. The Thrashers never got a chance at the tying
goal.

''It was one of those games where everything seemed to hit me,''
Luongo said. ''Some, I didn't even see. It was a combination of
luck and good positioning. That's part of my game.''

He covered the puck numerous times with players piled up in
front of the net. He blocked a shot after losing his stick. He
caught a break when Marc Savard tapped the puck past the goalie at
the side of the net, but it slid through the crease along the goal
line.

''We played a pretty solid game,'' Hartley said. ''You've got to
give credit to Luongo. He stole two points away from us.''

By contrast, Milan Hnilicka put the Thrashers in a hole when he
gave up a terrible goal to Biron while Atlanta was on a power play
early in the second.

The Florida defenseman skated into the Thrashers zone and put a
shot right through Hnilicka's legs from a bad angle at the far edge
of the circle.

Hnilicka looked back in disbelief, then slammed his stick when
he realized the puck was in the net at 3:02. It was the 13th
short-handed goal surrendered by Atlanta, the most in the league.

Five minutes later, Huselius gave the Panthers some breathing
room with his 19th goal. Cullen won a scrum along the boards and
passed to Huselius, who found the net with a shot over Hnilicka's
glove.

Kovalchuk's late goal tied the Atlanta season record. Donald
Audette also had 32 goals in 2000-01.

The Thrashers poured it on in the third period, outshooting
Florida 16-7. All they could do was deny Luongo his seventh shutout
of the season.

''I would have liked to do it,'' the goalie said. ''But we got
two points, and that's what matters.''

Game notes
Biron, acquired from Columbus in October, has five goals in
130 career games. ... Kovalchuk was sent sprawling when Ivan
Majesky delivered a big hit early in the third period. Kovalchuk
was helped off the ice and went to the locker room for a few
minutes, but he returned to finish the game. ... The Thrashers
missed a chance to tie the franchise record for victories in the
season. They have 22, one short of the 2000-01 team, with 15 games
remaining. ... Atlanta left wing Simon Gamache played 11½ minutes in his
NHL debut. He had three shots and was on the ice for Kovalchuk's
goal. ... The Panthers had 27 shots.