STARS 4, PANTHERS 1
All the fun the Panthers had in Saturday's home opener disappeared pretty quickly against Dallas on Thursday.
Tomas Vokoun, the NHL's first star of the week, not only had his two-game shutout streak come crashing to a close, but he was benched after giving up four goals in the first two periods as the Panthers got throttled 4-1 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers avoided being shutout for the first time this season after Stephen Weiss scored with 3:06 remaining in the game.
“It's disappointing: Our effort, our preparation, attention to detail,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We got beat at all the things we're supposed to be taking pride in, out working teams. They were better in all those categories than us, and we're not going to win if we're not good there.''
The Stars win was their fifth in six games this season, the only blemish coming Monday in Tampa Bay. Florida had five days in between games and definitely looked rusty as the Stars jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening period before tagging on two more in the second. The Stars were very opportunistic at the end of periods, with Tom Wandell scoring with 20.1 seconds remaining in the first and with 33.9 seconds left in the second.
After the Stars made it 3-0 midway through the second, it looked like coach Pete DeBoer was going to give Vokoun the rest of the night off as Scott Clemmensen appeared to get ready to come into the game. Vokoun stayed in, however, but was on the bench for the start of the third.
Vokoun, who had gone 140:47 without giving up a goal, ended up stopping 19 of 23 shots in 40 minutes of work on Thursday. Before Steve Ott scored with 3:04 left in the opening period, Vokoun hadn't surrendered a goal since Daniel Sedin scored his second of the night in Vancouver's 2-1 victory on Oct. 11. Vokoun shutout Calgary on Oct. 14 and Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
“There was no rust. This is what we do,'' Weiss said. “The chances they had, they put them in. A couple goals late in the period at this level will kill you. It wasn't a lack of effort. We tried doing the right things. But when you stand around, teams will pick you apart.''
The Panthers had won two of their first four to open the season and looked to jump on the Stars early. Florida got an early power play chance but failed to do anything with it – as has been the case for much of the past few seasons. Florida's power play unit was ranked 29th of 30 teams last year and came into Thursday ranked 26th. The Panthers went 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 5 and have just one goal in 18 chances.
Florida had a great opportunity to take a 1-0 lead early in the first as goalie Kari Lehtonen (who went 12-5-4 against the Panthers while with divisional rival Atlanta) lost sight of the puck as he scrambled to make a save. The puck was sitting there in front of an empty net with defenseman Mike Weaver crashing in to try and put it into the net. Weaver didn't, and the Panthers were denied the lead.
“I didn't even really see it, it was going to the far side,'' said Weaver, whose stick is the longest allowed by league rules. “I guess I need a longer stick. I have to write a letter to the NHL for permission. I was a second behind. Hockey's a game of inches. It was just out of my reach.''
Later in the period, Ott broke through as he scrambled for a rebound, getting in front of defenseman Keaton Ellerby and beating Vokoun. Wandell got his first of the night as he camped out on the right side of the net and was able to get an easy goal just before the first intermission.
Florida had a few chances against Lehtonen in the second, but it was James Neal who got a goal, putting the puck between Vokoun's skates.
Wandell's second goal was a pretty one. Wandell took the puck, skated around the goal cage and into the right circle, one-timing the puck over Vokoun's shoulder.
The appearance by Clemmensen was his first in almost a month. Clemmensen was held out of Florida's final three preseason games, meaning he hadn't seen live game action since he beat the host Bruins in a preseason shootout on Sept. 25. Clemmensen ended up making six saves.
“I'm still waiting for my first start, so I'm preparing myself every day,'' Clemmensen said. “These weren't the circumstances we wanted.''