Sure, the Panthers and Flyers had a few brawls as expected, but Florida dominated play from start to finish as it rolled to a 4-1 victory at Wachovia Center.
The Panthers were playing the Flyers for the first time since Philadelphia captain Mike Richards knocked out David Booth with a shot to the head here on Oct. 24. Booth, who suffered a serious concussion, hasn’t returned since but enjoyed every minute of Monday’s bashing.
“That was exactly what we needed to do,’’ Booth said after the game. “Guys didn’t back down. We played strong, came hard. .-.-. The guys also played well and that’s the best part, getting two points.’’
The two teams have been going in opposite directions since that previous meeting. The Flyers – a hip preseason pick to win it all -- have lost 11 of 13 games and sit in 14th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The Panthers have won five of seven and currently occupy a place within the conference’s top eight.
There were three fights in an opening period in which the Panthers took a 1-0 lead, but Florida did most of its damage in the final 40 minutes – a span that saw just one fight. The Panthers scored three goals off goalies Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in the final two periods.
Boucher left the game after the second goal after a hard shot from Michael Frolik apparently injured the goalie’s hand. Frolik ripped off a shot on the power play that Boucher sprawled to save; he didn’t get back into position as Stephen Weiss pounced and shot into the open net.
After that, the Flyers didn’t seem to have much interest as the home crowd showered them with boos and catcalls for the rest of the evening.
After a first period that featured three fights and the possibility for quite a few more, the Panthers settled into a simple game plan that frustrated the Flyers.
The headline bout in the first was between the two captains as Bryan McCabe and Richards squared off at center ice less than four minutes into the game. The fight wasn’t much, but it was something anyway.
The Panthers didn’t do much retaliation when Booth was hit, but Gregory Campbell and Ian Laperriere dropped the gloves (as the arena rang a boxing bell) less than two minutes into Monday’s game. Florida captain Bryan McCabe was the one to take on Richards, those two dancing less than two minutes later. Duco fought Laperriere later in the opening period.
“I think we righted some wrongs and that’s why Bryan McCabe is our captain,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said. “He took care of business and set the tone for us. We just competed hard for 60 minutes tonight.’’
Said McCabe: “[Richards is] a consummate professional. He knew that he had to answer the bell with someone tonight and it just happened to be me.’’
Nathan Horton got his first of two goals in the opening period. The Panthers led 2-0 going into the third and didn’t let up, with Frolik redirecting a McCabe shot 1:30 in. Horton got his 16th multi-goal game of his career at 5:54 of the period.
“We worked as a team and played as a team,’’ Horton said.
With 7:02 left, Ian Lapierrere got into his third scuffle with the Panthers after he creamed Victor Oreskovich behind the Florida goal.
Pacifist Dennis Seidenberg was ejected (as was Lapierrere) after coming to Oreskovich’s defense. According to hockeyfights.com, Seidenberg had been in just one fight in his seven-year NHL career before Monday.
The Flyers spoiled Tomas Vokoun’s shutout bid moments after the Seidenberg incident as Braydon Coburn got a power play goal with 6:13 left.
“I don’t know how to fight,’’ said Seidenberg with a grin. “I had to respond to it. But that’s not my style.’’