SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Panthers made sure there would be no regrets this time around.
Two nights after losing by a goal despite outplaying the Kings throughout, the Panthers got a late goal from Dmitry Kulikov to cap a 5-3 win over the Sharks at HP Pavilion on Saturday night.
The rousing victory – Florida outscored the Sharks 3-0 in the second period – allowed the Panthers to end a four-game road trip in style. The Panthers opened the trip last Saturday with a lackluster 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay before bouncing back 3-1 in Carolina. Florida lost out on a chance at taking at least a point with a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday.
Florida flew home to Fort Lauderdale early Sunday morning and take on Washington at BankAtlantic Center on Monday. With the win, Florida maintained its five-point lead on the Capitals as the Panthers are in their third week atop the Southeast Division.
“We went .500 in four games but we would have liked to get at least a point out of L.A.,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “We beat a really solid hockey team. There's a lot of belief in that locker room. We've been down then readjusted. This was a solid, all-around effort. That was a good game for us.''
The Panthers opened up Saturday's game like they have many others – by giving up a quick goal. Logan Couture's shot that caromed off the cross bar and past starter Scott Clemmensen gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 1:16 into the game.
Of Florida's 26 games this season, it has given up the initial goal in 14. Ten of those goals have come in the opening five minutes.
“Our team has been like this all season,'' said Clemmensen, now 2-0 after making 23 saves. “We never feel like we are down. We have a lot of confidence as a team. One, two, three goal deficits mean nothing. We keep fighting to the end. As a goaltender, you get support from everyone. The last game I played we scored six goals. Now we got five. We keep going like that, we'll keep winning them.''
The Panthers bounced back at 7:53 of the period when Stephen Weiss' soft shot somehow found its way past defender Douglas Murray and goalie Thomas Greiss. The Sharks answered and made it 2-1 when Jamie McGinn charged through the slot and one-timed a nice pass from Michal Handzus past Clemmensen.
After that, however, it was all Panthers.
Florida outshot the Sharks 15-9 in the second period and got goals from Tomas Fleischmann, former Sharks winger Marco Sturm and Jack Skille.
The third goal of the period came on a pure hustle play from Skille as Florida was killing a penalty. Skille fought for a puck and worked it around the Sharks zone to kill time, then went for the net. Skille had the puck taken from him on a Greiss poke check, only the puck bounced around off skates and Dan Boyle’s downed stick.
Skille technically didn't take a shot, but the goal counts just the same.
“A little bit of puck luck helps,'' Skille said. “I'll take it. I'm sure everyone else in the league would as well.''
Added Dineen: “He had a great game, really took to heart conversations we've had. He understands how he can be a really effective player for this team. He has a lot of of care and his heart is in the right place. It's not always going to pay off on the scoresheet, but that was a big goal for him.''
Florida continued its strong play in the third, holding the Sharks to just two shots through the opening eight minutes. But Couture whipped a shot past Clemmensen on a power play with 6:21 left to give the Sharks hope.
Of course, all that ended when Kulikov scored on Florida's final power play of the night with 1:35 remaining. The two teams played a tough game throughout, and ended it in a scrum behind the Florida net.
Ed Jovanovski was charged for roughing after the final whistle sounded with Brad Winchester given a post game roughing and game misconduct.