Now if only the Florida Panthers could win in front of their own crowd?
Tuesday night, the Panthers thrashed the Dallas Stars 6-0 to win their fourth straight on the road, and their third in blowout fashion). The win also gives the Cats seven road wins (against only three losses), which is the most of any team in the NHL. Scott Clemmensen made a triumphant return from knee surgery by stopping all 25 Dallas shots for the shutout in his first action of the season and, he received plenty of support from the guys in front of him. Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg each pitched in with a goal and two assists and Jason Garrison blasted his seventh goal of the season.
The Panthers came flying out of the gates as they put pressure on Kari Lehtonen almost immediately. But for the first 15 minutes of the period, the Stars were up to the challenge as they killed off two penalties as Lehtonen made save after save. The Cats finally broke through as Dmitry Kulikov flashed to the slot to bury a Tomas Kopecky backhanded feed past Lehtonen to make it 1-0. For Kulikov, it was his first goal of the season and his 13th point. He’s already halfway to his point total from last season in only 17 games. Garrison added his tally less than two minutes later when he blasted a point shot off a Mike Santorelli pass to make it 2-0 just before the end of the period. Garrison’s seventh goal puts him in the lead for most goal by a defenseman, just one ahead of Nicklas Lidstrom. Brian Campbell, who picked up the secondary assist on the goal, now leads the league with 16 helpers.
The Stars fought out of a rough start to the second when killed off two early penalties (one a questionable boarding call on Krys Barch) and started to show some push back. But before they could get back into the game, the Panthers struck again. Tomas Fleischmann showed off his skill when he broke the ankles of Stephane Robidas to leave him with an open line to Lehtonen that he buried to extend the lead to 3-0. The Panthers let even more air out of the Dallas balloon when the first line showed off some impressive tic-tac-toe passing that Weiss finished into an open net with eight seconds left in the frame.
The score would stay at 4-0 until exactly midway through the third. That’s when Versteeg led a 2-on-1 one breakaway (started with a Weiss-created Stars turnover) with Ed Jovanovski, who just left the penalty box. Versteeg body faked a pass before he wristed it over the left shoulder of Lehtonen for his team-leading ninth goal. The final nail in the Dallas coffin on this evening came after a Marco Sturm pass glanced off the skate of Evgeny Dadonov past Lehtonen, who promptly broke his stick on his goal post (take that Keith Ballard). For Dadonov, that’s two goals in two games played.
This game was the best the Florida Panthers have looked in a game all season long. In the past, that would have been very easy to say, but this team is much different as they’ve shown on many occasions over the young season. Granted, the Stars were playing this game without Alex Goligoski and Steve Ott, two key pieces, but with the way the Panthers played tonight, it wouldn’t have mattered if Mike Modano was out there. The Cats outhit, outshot, outhustled, outmuscled, and pretty much out-everythinged Dallas on this night. The first line of Versteeg-Weiss-Flieschmann was once again superb as they combined for 8 points an a +11 rating (Weiss was +6 by himself) and the secondary scoring has been much improved over the last five-six games. But the news wasn’t all good for the Panthers, reports came during the game that Scottie Upshall’s hip injury will keep him out 6-8 weeks. While this team is better equipped to handle injuries with it’s depth, it could always use a player of Upshall’s caliber, despite his slow start. If there’s a positive out of it, Evgeny Dadonov will have plenty of opportunity to prove to Kevin Dineen that he deserves a spot on the roster no matter who’s healthy or not.
You check out how our Stars friends in took the game over at Blackout Dallas.
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Tags: Alex Goligoski Dallas Stars Ed Jovanovski Evgeny Dadonov Florida Panthers Kari Lehtonen Kris Versteeg Marco Sturm Mike Santorelli Scott Clemmensen Scottie Upshall Stephane Robidas Stephen Weiss Steve Ott Tomas Fleischmann