Panthers Weather Storm in Home Opener
Just two days after blanking the Calgary Flames, Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers did it again. This time it was in their own building against the familiar Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to a lightning quick start (pun fully intended) the Panthers took a lead and never looked back.
Cory Stillman got the scoring going just 1:50 into the first period. Dmitry Kulikov stopped a 3-on-1 for the Lightning with an active stick, not even allowing a shot on goal. The Panthers picked up the loose puck and quickly transitioned for a 3-on-2 of their own. Dvorak passed the puck cross ice to McCabe who spotted a wide open Stillman crashing the net, who redirected the pass behind Lightning goalie Dan Ellis.
After much back-and-forth action, the Panthers lit the lamp again at 14:25, this time David Booth registered his first of the season. After keeping some good pressure on in the zone, Olesz protected the puck in the corner and slid it up to McCabe at the point, who quickly passed it over to Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov faked a shot and slid it cross ice to Olesz who’s shot went off the pad of Dan Ellis but the rebound ended up in the middle of the ice for a wide open David Booth to slide it into a gaping net to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Forty-eight seconds later and the Panthers increased their lead to three. Stephen Reinprecht picked up his first of the year after forcing a bad pass by Pavel Kubina. Kubina turned it over right to Mike Santorelli who fired a quick shot which Ellis dropped in front of him. Steve Bernier and Reinprecht crashed the net and slid it by Ellis. This was the last goal Ellis would give up this game as he was replaced by backup Mike Smith just 15:13 into the game.
The goalie change didn’t really help the Lightning, however, when 3:02 later, the Panthers scored their first powerplay goal of the season. Dennis Wideman took a one-timer on a nice cross ice pass from Stephen Weiss that deflected off Steven Stamkos’ stick and behind Smith to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period had some nice action but neither team was able to find the back of the net. The Panthers played a smart game for the second and third period in an effort to hold onto their four goal cushion. The final forty minutes of this game was a testament to the team’s defensive strength as they shut down the Lightning and stifled them offensively. Steven Stamkos seemed to be emulating Hollow Man because he was virtually invisible on the ice due in large part to a solid sixty-minute effort for the Cats. Stamkos was held to just two shots, as was Gagne, Lecavalier, and St. Louis.
In the third, the Cats played another spectacular period with the lead, but this time they added two more goals. Booth added his second of the game on a beautiful 2-on-1 play with Rotislav Olesz. On another beautiful quick transition, McCabe picked up the puck on the side of his own net and quickly fired an outlet pass to Booth breaking up the wing. Pavel Kubina was caught down low as Booth and Olesz broke down the ice. Booth gave it to Olesz in the neutral zone and continued to crash the net hard. Olesz threaded a pass between the defenders legs to a wide open Booth who just tapped the puck into the gaping net behind Smith for a 5-0 lead 7:49 into the third to all but solidify a Panthers win. Just for extra security, Olesz added his second of the season with 2:35 left in the game off a deflection from a Bryan McCabe shot. Tomas Vokoun stood tall in net, stopping all 29 shots thrown his way for his second consecutive shutout as the Panthers held on to beat their in-state rivals 6-0 in the first game in the Bank Atlantic Center this season. This win can give the Panthers some confidence, especially in their ability to score goals this year. They improved to 2-2 on the season as they prepare to take on a hot Dallas Stars (4-0) team on Thursday in Florida. That game is scheduled to start at 7:30 PM.
Bryan McCabe finished the game with 4 assists
David Booth had 3 points, 2 g 1 a
Olesz also had 3 points, 1g 2 a
Tomas Vokoun has now gone 125:08 without conceding a goal. That was his 40th career shutout.
Attendance was announced at 17,040, a sellout