After getting rolled in Washington two nights before, the Panthers were desperate to come back with a strong game Thursday against the visiting Kings.
Sometimes you take what you can get.
The Panthers survived a strong defensive push from the Kings and picked up a pair of opportunistic goals in the second period to beat Los Angeles 3-1 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers hadn't beaten Los Angeles on home ice since 2001 and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Kings in the process. It wasn't pretty nor very exciting. Yet it was a much more desired result than the 2-1 loss in December when Florida clearly outplayed the host Kings.
“Sometimes it's like that,'' said Sean Bergenheim, who scored Florida's opening goal on the Panthers seventh shot of the night 4:52 into the [itals] second [itals] period.
“It's very easy to get frustrated playing against that team. It wasn't by any means the prettiest win. Not at all. But we knew what to do, we followed the game plan. We're happy about that. It showed something about our team.''
Florida kept pace with Washington and is technically back atop the Southeast Division after the Capitals blew a late lead at home and lost to Winnipeg in a shootout. Although the two teams have the same amount of points (61), Florida has played one fewer game.
The Panthers looked like they were on west coast time for much of Thursday's game as the Kings came out strong and had a number of scoring chances on Scott Clemmensen early. Clemmensen kept the Kings at bay, stopping all 11 shots faced in the first and 22 overall to give his offense a chance.
Florida didn't get its first real scoring chance until Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg were stopped late in the first period as the Panthers only took five shots in the first.
The Panthers only took six in the second although two of them – from Bergenheim and Mike Santorelli – found their way past Jonathan Quick to give Florida a 2-0 lead going into the second break. Quick didn't make it out for the third with new Kings coach Darryl Sutter putting in Jonathan Bernier.
Bergenheim gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 4:52 of the second with a crisp slap shot from 25 feet out. Twelve minutes later, Santorelli beat Quick on a slapper of his own.
Eighteen of Florida's 25 wins have come when it has scored the opening goal.
“It was a tight checking game and it was like a playoff game. Points are so crucial, it's great to come out on top,'' Santorelli said. “Every game is so important every team needs those points.''
The Kings made it interesting with a Drew Doughty goal with 2:28 left that had Dineen upset with the Florida defense. But Matt Bradley scored into an empty net off a nice pass from Shawn Matthias to close it out.
() Defenseman Ed Jovanovski had the cast removed from his surgically repaired right hand on Monday and says he is feeling good and is close to returning to the lineup. Jovanovski still needs to start working on stick handling drills, but it's thought he isn't more than two weeks away from a return.
“Everything is going according to plan. It was three weeks [Wednesday],'' Jovanovski said. “It's tough to put a timetable on it because you don't want to be disappointed. But I'm right there. I'm doing everything I can to come back. I'm aiming for soon.''
() As Jose Theodore was added back to the Panthers lineup after sitting out the past few weeks with a sore knee, Jacob Markstrom is also getting closer to returning to game action. Markstrom had knee surgery in January and participated in Thursday's morning skate.
() Center Stephen Weiss was held off the score sheet as the Kings remain the lone NHL team he has yet to record a point against. Weiss has played eight games against Los Angeles.