SUNRISE – Brett McLean admitted he did everything he could to break out of his scoring slump.
Name a routine. Any routine.
“I changed them all,” he said Sunday evening after scoring the game-winning goal and his first of the season in the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over the Avalanche at BankAtlantic Center.
“Every single one,” he continued. “All the routines hockey players have, I changed them. I tried to focus on different parts of my game. I changed routines before the game, warm-ups, practice…”
For the popular McLean, who scored 14 goals last season for the Panthers, his hard work paid off when he tipped a pass from Nick Tarnasky past Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj in the second period to help the Panthers improve their record to 15-13-4.
Goals by McLean, Richard Zednik and Bryan McCabe – and Tomas Vokoun’s 27th NHL shutout – kept the Panthers rolling, improving to 7-2-3 in their last 12 games. It was the Panthers first home victory against the Avalanche since April of 1995, when the Avalanche were the Quebec Nordiques.
It was a game in which the Panthers did “a lot of things right,” according to coach Peter DeBoer. And it started with McLean scoring his first goal since March 12 and Vokoun making 23 saves.
Despite McLean not scoring through the first 31 games, DeBoer never took him out of the lineup.
“It’s never for a lack of effort with Brett,” DeBoer said. “He’s been pushing for a long time for the goal. Hopefully, it will be a weight off his shoulders and he can relax a little and there will be more to come.”
Panthers 3, Avalanche 0
AP Story Tomas Vokoun made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Brett McLean, Richard Zednik and Bryan McCabe scored goals in the Florida Panthers' 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night. ...more
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McLean said DeBoer just kept “stressing to keep pushing and keep getting better.”
“Coach wants me to be desperate,” he added. “Try to get pucks to the net and things like that, because, obviously, in the goal scoring department it hasn’t been working.”
After the Panthers outshot the Avalanche 8-3 in the first period, McLean put the Panthers up 1-0 at 5:26 of the second period with a huge assist from Tarnasky, who circled the Avalanche goal before sliding the puck across the crease to McLean, who was standing all alone and tipped it in the net.
McLean called it a “sense of relief.” His goal, his 50th in the NHL, was followed 7:33 later by Zednik’s fourth of the season and his first since Nov. 14. Zednik raced down the left side, cut in front of the net and past defenseman Brett Clark, and then waited until Budaj committed himself before lifting a backhand into the Avalanche net.
The Avalanche, who took 11 shots on Vokoun in the first two periods, played a much stronger third period, a period DeBoer said “left a little to be desired.” But Vokoun was strong throughout the game, stopping point-blank attempts by Tyler Arnason and two by Darcy Tucker. The only shot that beat Vokoun – a slapshot by John-Michael Liles – came after the second period buzzer had sounded.
Vokoun, who’s played three of the last four games after sitting behind Craig Anderson for six of seven between Nov. 28 and Dec. 11, said he was never concerned about getting back on a roll.
“Sometimes things like that happen,” he said. “You can get frustrated or feel sorry for yourself or work on your game. Andy played great, he deserved to play. This is a team sport. You have to consider the team before yourself. I knew it’s a long season and eventually I would play. Just like (Anderson) did. If you don’t play good, you just have to work harder.”
Vokoun “played great when we needed him,” McLean said. The Panthers’ goal “made some big saves for us and it was enough to get the win.”
The Panthers could find themselves in the best position they’ve been in for years going into the two-day Christmas break. Their game Tuesday against Nashville will be their 33rd game of the season. The Panthers were 15-16-2 after 33 games last season.
“We have to make sure to keep it going,” said Stephen Weiss. “We can’t have any setbacks.”
Defenseman Keith Ballard had four blocked shots, three hits, played 24:32, and was whistled for two penalties, including unsportsmanlike conduct…Gregory Campbell’s assist on Zednik’s goal was his 50th NHL point. He also won 12 of 19 faceoffs, and had three hits… Jassen Cullimore did not play the second two periods after leaving with a hand injury... Anthony Stewart and Noah Welch were healthy scratches…Tuesday’s game against Nashville is 7:30 p.m…