PANTHERS 3, FLAMES 0
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
CALGARY – Radek Dvorak said on Wednesday that it was too early to give his new line combination a nickname.
If Dvorak and his elder statesmen keep this up, they'll have a moniker by next week.
Dvorak scored a pair of goals within the first eight minutes on Thursday night as the Panthers rolled to a 3-0 victory over the host Flames for their first win of the season. Goalie Tomas Vokoun didn't have much work early on, but ended with 27 saves as he picked up his 39th career shutout and 18th in four seasons with the Panthers.
Calgary, which had just 10 shots in the first 40 minutes, had 17 in the third period alone. Vokoun has stopped 70 of 75 shots faced this season.
“That was the key: Vokoun was as solid as I've seen him,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “It looked like they could shoot all night and nothing was getting through. We weathered the storm well. When they did put pressure on, early on, we weathered it. Late, we weathered it. Defensively we were great.''
The Panthers have now won their past two contests at the Saddledome dating to the 2008-09 season and avoided their second 0-3 start since the 2007-08 season.
The team is expected to land in Fort Lauderdale early Friday morning and take the rest of the day off.
The Panthers play their home opener Saturday against Tampa Bay at BankAtlantic Center.
Dvorak's AARP Line (by NHL standards) boasts of 43 years of NHL experience. On Thursday, the 33-year-old Dvorak got his first goal after backhanding a puck off the blade of 33-year-old Marty Reasoner and past Calgary goalie Mikka Kiprusoff at the 4:20 mark.
The goal gave the Panthers their first lead of the season.
Later in the period, Dvorak zipped a shot from the right circle, the puck clipping the iron of the goal cage before skipping back out. That goal gave the Panthers a 2-0 advantage they would not relinquish.
“It was huge. Every time you play with the lead you're more relaxed,'' said Dvorak, who had his first two-goal game since last season at Atlanta. “We played with more confident. We were good on the forecheck and the backcheck. Overall, I think we owned the game.''
All told, Dvorak and his line of Reasoner and Cory Stillman (age 37) combined for two goals and three assists. Defenseman Dennis Wideman was credited with the second assist on Dvorak's second goal.
Florida's stout defensive play continued on Thursday. After outplaying Edmonton (and holding the Oilers to 13 shots) on Sunday, the Panthers stifled the Flames, holding them to just 10 shots through the first 40 minutes.
“I've been here a long time and that was one of the best, if not the best, games I've seen this team play,'' said Vokoun, who has stopped 70 of 75 shots this season. “We played games in the first two games and didn't get rewarded. What can I say? It was a great effort by 20 guys playing hard, playing the right way. It was nice.''
Calgary, which has lost two of its first three, came out slinging in the third period but Vokoun turned the Flames back. Midway through the period, Rostislav Olesz came racing up the ice and fed Shawn Matthias with the puck. Matthias, now centering the second line, shot through the slot and beat Kiprusoff for his first goal of the season.
“I thought we complimented each other very well,'' said Matthias. “We had a solid unit as a line, solid as a team. This is something we can expect more of. We have a hard working team and we're having fun. Everyone wants to compete and win. We played hard and as a team. That was a great game.''
The Panthers – facing old mates Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman – once again played a solid 60 minutes and frustrated the banged up Flames in the process.
Bouwmeester, who left the Panthers as a free agent in 2009, didn't do much against his old team aside from taking a penalty in the first period.
The Panthers, as has been the case all season, didn't cash in on the penalty.
Florida's power play, which ended last season ranked 29th in the 30 team league, has yet to score a goal. The Panthers are 0-11 with at least a man advantage through the first three games.
On the flip side, the Panthers penalty kill has been very effective – something they showed during the preseason. Florida only committed two penalties in the opener and none in the second, so the penalty kill units didn't have much to do. On Thursday, however, the Panthers were called for three infractions. Florida killed them all off and are now 5-for-5 on the kill.
Panthers Are in the Win Column: Florida 3, Calgary Flames 0 ... Tomas Vokoun 27 Saves, 39th Shutout
PANTHERS 3, FLAMES 0