SUNRISE – A hot goalie, a hunch and a couple power play goals can take you pretty far in the NHL.
The Panthers rode those three keys to a 4-0 shutout victory Wednesday over the Lightning at the BankAtlantic Center. Now the Panthers hope to stretch their winning streak to three games Friday evening at BAC against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.
Goalie Craig Anderson stopped 24 Lightning shots, Gregory Campbell scored two goals – including his first NHL power play goal – and Bryan McCabe scored his first goal as a Panther as the team rolled to its second consecutive victory while gaining two valuable points in the Southeast Division.
“It was just a great all-around team effort from everybody,” said Anderson, who, combined with his 3-1 victory Sunday in Anaheim, has now stopped 68 of the last 69 shots he’s faced.
“The last two, three years it’s come down to a dogfight in the Southeast, and we need points against these division teams,” Campbell said. “We need to set the standard early.”
In fact, it was the Panthers who set the tone in Wednesday’s game. The Panthers were aggressive from the opening faceoff, tied their season low by allowing the Lightning only four first period shots, and gained confidence off Anderson’s first-period saves on Martin St. Louis and Chris Gratton.
“I think Sunday night was a big win for our confidence,” Campbell said.
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Craig Anderson 2nd: Gregory Campbell 3rd: Nathan Horton
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
And Wednesday’s big win started with McCabe.
Playing his fifth game in a Panther uniform, McCabe scored his first goal as a Panther at 16:33 of the first period when he took a slap shot from the right point that sailed over the glove hand of Lightning goalie Mike Smith after a nice play in the offensive zone by Rostislav Olesz.
The Panthers made it 2-0 off the power play at 1:28 of the second period when Nathan Horton wheeled off the boards and, despite having Mike Lundin draped all over him, snapped off a wrist shot that beat Smith for his sixth goal of the season.
The Panthers added another power play goal at 10:25 of the second when Campbell, not known as a power play specialist but put on the ice with the man advantage by coach Peter DeBoer, redirected a shot from the point by Jay Bouwmeester past Smith.
The two power play goals were huge since the Panthers entered the game last in the league on the power play.
“Pete’s given me an opportunity since training camp,” admitted Campbell, known more for his penalty killing. “If I can go out there and cause some havoc in front of the net, that’s what I’m expected to do. It’s not an easy job. (David) Booth does it all the time. Rusty Olesz. They go out there and pay the price.
“I don’t know why (DeBoer) sent me out there. Maybe he had a hunch.”
In fact, DeBoer said he used Campbell on the power play back in juniors. “He hasn’t played a lot of power play,” DeBoer admitted. “I had a gut feeling to put him out there. It’s nice to see a guy like that be rewarded.”
And Campbell rewarded DeBoer with his second goal of the game, the Panthers’ fourth, at 16:28 of the third period on an assist and unselfish play by Bouwmeester. It was Campbell's second two-goal game of his career. The first came on October 24th, 2007 against Philadelphia. The game ended with Anderson making his 24th save of the night as the buzzer sounded.
The shutout, Anderson said, is “always a bonus.”
“They can’t take those away from you,” said Anderson, who recorded consecutive shutouts last March against the Islanders and Bruins. “The stats can always go up-and-down, but the shutouts stay with you.”
DeBoer said he’ll likely go with Anderson again Friday night when the Panthers play host to the Red Wings, who play the Lightning in Tampa Thursday night.
“I think we’ll be ready,” said Campbell, before adding, “We have to be ready.”
Tomas Vokoun, bothered by an undisclosed injury, was on the bench Wednesday. The Panthers also called up goalie Tyler Plante from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester… Nathan Horton did not play the third period. DeBoer said Horton had the flu… Cory Stillman said it felt good to “jump right back in” after missing the previous three games with a concussion… Radek Dvorak (hamstring), Kamil Kreps (concussion) and Noah Welch (healthy scratch) did not play…