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Panthers Win Second Straight, Beat Lightning 6-0 in Home Opener

PANTHERS 6, LIGHTNING 0

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Panthers coach Pete DeBoer has often said that for his team to win, scoring needs to come from all over the ice.

In the first period of Saturday's home opener at BankAtlantic Center, just about everyone got onto the score sheet.

Eleven different players notched at least a point in a rousing first period as the Panthers jumped all over Tampa Bay with four goals. With Tomas Vokoun looking as good as ever, that lead was more than enough as Florida pummeled the Lightning 6-0 as the new-look Panthers continue to impress.

Saturday's win evened Florida's record through the first four games as the Panthers outscored Calgary and Tampa Bay 9-0 in consecutive wins. With 38 shots to Tampa Bay's 29, the Panthers have now outshot all four of their opponents this season.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun notched his second straight shutout and the 40th of his career. The Lightning were shutout five times last season.

“Things are improving from a confidence standpoint on this team,'' said Vokoun, who has stopped 99 of 104 shots faced in four starts to open the season. “We played two good games and didn't win either of them but we stuck to the gameplan. We were good again tonight, hung around the net and scored a lot of goals by our standards.''

The Panthers didn't waste any time in going after goalie Dan Ellis, firing off four shots in the opening shift. Ellis stopped those, but 1:50 into the period, Cory Stillman took advantage of some nice passing from Bryan McCabe and Radek Dvorak, beating Ellis from the slot to make it 1-0.

Florida continued to pester Ellis and sent him to the bench later in the period as the Panthers scored twice within a 48 second span. David Booth got his first goal by slipping the puck past defenseman Randy Jones to make it 2-0.

With 4:47 left in the period, Steven Reinprecht made it 3-0 when he corralled a loose puck near the crease after Ellis made a save and popped it into the open net. With that, Ellis' night was over as Mike Smith took over between the pipes.

“It was a nice start at home,'' said McCabe. “We're only 2-2 but could easily be 4-0. We're going to win a lot of games if we keep playing the way we are. We're hard to compete against. It's really nice to see.''

The large opening night crowd continued to enjoy the party later in the period as Dennis Wideman got Florida's first power play goal since April 10 when he sliced a shot from the left circle. Florida's power play – ranked 29th out of 30 teams last season – had gone 0-for-11 this season until Wideman's big shot beat Smith.

In the third, Booth picked up his second goal of the game as he and Olesz rushed down on a 2-on-1 chance, with Olesz's pass going between the skates of Mike Lundin. Booth fired at Smith and the puck skipped off his skate and into the net. Olesz later finished his three-point night off as he got his second goal of the season off a pass from McCabe.

The Panthers shutout of the Lightning is impressive on its own since Tampa Bay has as powerful a top two lines as any team in the league with the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. And Florida did so with only five defensemen for much of the night after Jason Garrison left the game with a groin injury.

“You never relax, not with a team like that,'' DeBoer said. “We were squeezing it right to the last buzzer. You're not going to have nights like that, so it's nice to do it front of our home fans in the home opener.''

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