With the second half of the season underway, the days of the Panthers playing to make a statement are over.
Yet with Monday's win over the defending Western Conference champions, they did just that.
Florida used a strong second period and great goaltending from Scott Clemmensen in the third to upend visiting Vancouver 2-1 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Canucks were coming off an emotional 4-3 win against the defending Cup champs in Boston but couldn't solve Clemmensen and the Panthers.
The Panthers had dropped six of their previous eight games.
“It feels awesome, actually,'' said Mikael Samuelsson, traded to the Panthers from Vancouver in October. “I'm not taking anything away from our win, but I don't think they played their best game of the year. But I absolutely don't care about that. We won. I'm happy. I'll take it any day.''
The Canucks, who lead the west and are one point back of the Rangers for most points in the league, jumped to a 1-0 lead when Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra broke loose on a 2-on-1 with Malhotra slipping a pass ahead of Erik Gudbranson. Weise put it past Clemmensen on Vancouver's opening shot of the night 3:11 in.
Clemmensen stopped Vancouver's following 25 shots. “Not too shabby,'' coach Kevin Dineen said after Clemmensen earned first star of the game honors.
“They are a good team; they know how to win,'' Clemmensen said. “The guys in this room really responded well.''
The Panthers dominated the second period as it was one of Florida's most complete 20 minute offerings of the season. Florida outshot the Canucks 14-2 in the second with Vancouver not getting off a shot for the final 14-plus minutes of the period.
Florida tied the score five minutes into the second when Dmitry Kulikov's slap shot off a big rebound from former Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo banged off the side boards. Less than five minutes later, Marcel Goc scored off a loose puck on the power play.
“It wasn't pretty, wasn't fancy but it worked,'' Goc said. “We're playing some of the top teams in the standings right now so we want to do well and stay with the pack and keep pace.''
Clemmensen was the story of the third as he rejected all 14 shots offered including a nice save with 8:35 left as Ryan Kesler and Cody Hodgson broke free for a 2-on-1. Luongo only faced two shots in the third although Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg had a great 2-on-1 opportunity with 2:20 remaining.
Pittsburgh and Boston are the next top teams to visit Sunrise.
“I really liked our second, kept a strong pace of play and created opportunities,'' Dineen said. “It doesn't get any easier but it's nice to have some time between games.''
() Goalie Jacob Markstrom is scheduled to have his injured knee examined by local surgeon Dr. John Uribe in Miami on Tuesday after suffering what Dineen now says is a potentially substantial knee injury during Saturday's practice.
With Markstrom out, Brian Foster was recalled for the second time in a week. Unlike last week, where Foster was summoned just for practice, he suited up for his first NHL game but did not play. Florida is also without starter Jose Theodore, although he could start practicing soon.
Markstrom had his 2010-11 season cut short in the minors when he needed knee surgery in February.
“Unfortunately it's not great news but we'll know more [Tuesday],'' Dineen said after the game. “It's going to be a little while before he's back in the swing of things.''
() Scottie Upshall joined his teammates for the morning skate Monday and then was off to Philadelphia to be seen by noted sports hernia Dr. William Meyers. Upshall, who has been out since Nov. 10, says he feels good and hopes to be cleared by Meyers.
“It has progressed the past few weeks,'' Upshall said. I want to be good to go when I come back, be effective and contribute. We need healthy bodies in the lineup.''
() Only one of the three players involved in the Oct. 22 trade between Florida and Vancouver played on Monday as David Booth is out with a knee injury and Marco Sturm is out with a concussion and hasn't skated since being hurt Dec. 20.
"This is the game I'd do anything to play and it's really tough not to,'' Booth said after Sunday's skate in Sunrise. "I'd probably get hurt if I played.''