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Panthers Down Leafs: Dennis Seidenberg gets Stitched up then hits Steven Reinprecht with Shot

Mapleleaf

Those hoping to see an exciting, up-and-down hockey game with one end to end rush after another left the Sunrise arena disappointed on Saturday night.

Those who only cared that the home team won walked out more than satisfied.

The Panthers played a typical road game at home Saturday as they took a lead in the second period and sat on it, smothering the Maple Leafs in the process.

With Tomas Vokoun continuing to sparkle and Toronto not offering much to challenge, that game plan was enough for victory as the Panthers won 2-0 at BankAtlantic Center.

For the Panthers, a team missing two of its top offensive forwards because of injury, ugly wins are just fine. And those who don't like this style may not want to watch future games.

We usually don't have many pretty wins and we're not the most exciting team to watch,'' Keith Ballard said. “This is perfect for us. We don't mind this at all. You want to watch an up-and-down team? Watch Washington. As long as we win, I could care less how we do it.''

Of course, Vokoun's play is worth the price of admission alone these days.

Saturday marked his sixth shutout of the season – second in the league and tying a career high. Three of those have come in the past eight games.

We had Booth and Horton out of the lineup, it was our seventh game in 10 days. It was a gutsy win,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “Our goaltender was great early, got us out of the first period. .-.-. We have to play close to the vest.''

With the Panthers offense running on empty of late, DeBoer decided clamping down and trapping the struggling Leafs was the only way to go. After Cory Stillman scored a power play goal early in the second period, the Panthers all but shut things down and let their defense – and mostly Vokoun – do the hard labor in trying to get two points.

Since scoring five goals against Tampa Bay on Jan. 16, the Florida offense has gone cold and has a grand total of four goals in four games. Thanks to Vokoun and an increased defensive pressure, however, the Panthers have survived. In those games, the Panthers got five of an available eight points.

If the Panthers can win games without flash, well, that's fine with them.

"This is how we have to do it,'' DeBoer said.

DeBoer pointed out that the Panthers played with plenty of grit, and there's little doubt about that. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg left the game after blocking a shot with his mouth, returning after having his upper lip rearranged and stitched together in the locker room.

Florida did lose center Steven Reinprecht to injury in the third after he took a shot off the skate. The puck came off the stick of the luckless Seidenberg.

On Thursday, a Seidenberg shot struck teammate Nathan Horton in the leg and ended up fracturing his tibia. Horton is out four to six weeks; DeBoer didn't have an update on Reinprecht.

Florida opened the game up a bit in the third as Kenndal McArdle – in his first game back from injury – scored his first NHL goal. McArdle scored with 6:45 left on a 3-on-1 taking a Gregory Campbell pass.

That second goal gave the Panthers enough cushion as they cruised from that point forward. Vokoun made 39 saves in the win.

We're winning hockey games. The last time we were in here, we beat Atlanta 1-0,'' said Stillman. “That's what we're going to have to do. We're not a high scoring team. We depend on our goalie and special teams. Down the stretch, that's going to be the difference.''

-- How good has Vokoun been?

Saturday was his 12th straight start. He's 6-4-2 during that span. He had three shutouts. He has stopped 430 of 451 shots.



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