The Florida Panthers got plenty of shots on goal and a quality start from backup Al Montoya, but were shutout by Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Stars last night at the American Airlines Center. With Sean Bergenheim's agent, Todd Diamond, deciding to bash coach Gerard Gallant, the only positive to come out of the Friday the 13th loss was Vancouver's 5-2 drubbing of Boston, which keep the Cats just four points behind the Bruins with a game in hand.
Florida kept up its recent penchant for giving up shorthanded goals, surrendering a 2-on-0 break to Vernon Fiddler and Jamie Benn midway through the first period. Fiddler was off to the races after Aaron Ekblad misplayed the puck at the blue line and he fed Benn in front for an easy put away.
Later in the period, Ekblad got a lesson from veteran pivot Jason Spezza. The 31-year-old turned the rookie every which way but loose before firing the puck past Montoya to put the Stars up by two at the 17:09 mark. Erik Cole and Jason Demers picked up the helpers on Spezza's eleventh of the campaign.
The rest of the game belonged to the goalies. Lehtonen finished with 37 saves to post his fourth shutout of this season. The veteran Finn made a nice stop on Ekblad's impressive shorthanded bid early in the third period. Montoya made two of his best saves just prior to that, denying Tyler Seguin and then Benn's quick rebound bid. The "Big Cubano" turned aside 26 of the 28 shots he faced.
Seguin was knocked out later in the frame when Dmitry Kulikov got too low on a hip check attempt. Kulikov received a five-minute major for clipping and a game misconduct for the check gone awry.
The Stars also lost Ales Hemsky in the first period and 51 seconds after Seguin's injury, Patrick Eaves was struck in the head by teammate John Klingberg's shot. All three players will be out for Dallas' meeting with the Avalanche in Denver tonight, with Seguin and Eaves placed on injured reserve.
The Panthers return home after this very forgettable two-game, mid-west jaunt to face yet another member of the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues, on Sunday at the BB&T Center. Goals needed... badly.
Odds & Sods
- Kari Lehtonen picked up his 31st NHL shutout. It was the former Atlanta Thrasher's fourth career whitewashing of the Panthers.
- The Cats had their four-game winning streak in Dallas snapped. The last time the Stars beat Florida at home was December 7, 2005.
- The clubs combined for a staggering 31 shots in the third period, with the Panthers peppering Lehtonen with 17 of those.
- After going for 0-for-5 in Minnesota, Florida's power play went 0-for-2 in Dallas. The Cats failed to convert a double minor for high-sticking on Patrick Eaves in the first period and surrendered their fifth shortie of the season when Benn scored.
- Dave Bolland, Aaron Ekblad, Tomas Fleischmann, Erik Gudbranson and Scottie Upshall all finished with four shots on goal.
- Jussi Jokinen had a fine night in the circle, winning 7-of-10 draws.
- Get your ten-gallon hat on and check out Defending Big D for more on the game.