By Dave Joseph and wire reports for floridapanthers.com
Backs to the wall, their playoff hopes in need of resuscitation, the Panthers came out swinging Thursday evening in Philadelphia.
And goaltender Craig Anderson did the rest.
Anderson, who stepped in to revive the Panthers fortunes earlier this season, stopped 40 shots in his first start since March 1 and Brett McLean scored the game-winner as the Panthers beat the Flyers 4-2.
It was a huge victory for the Panthers, who stopped a three-game losing streak and erased the memory of a tough 5-3 loss in Buffalo just 24 hours earlier.
Anderson, who won his 11th road game of the season, replaced Tomas Vokoun in goal for the Flyers game after Vokoun allowed three goals Wednesday in a span of 2:07 in the third period.
Earlier this season when Vokoun was struggling, Anderson stopped 44 shots to stop his team’s three-game losing streak with a victory in Anaheim. He started eight consecutive games between Nov. 26 and Dec. 11, helping the Panthers to a 5-1-2 record.
Despite the long layoff (he beat Washington 6-2 March 1) Anderson said; “Once you get a couple feels in there the memory takes over.”
Anderson got a big hand from his teammates, who blocked 11 shots in the first 20 minutes and 23 for the game. While Anderson was starring in goal, the Panthers set the tone early by matching the physical play of the Flyers. Gregory Campbell fought Daniel Carcillo immediately after the opening faceoff, and Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard had big hits throughout the night.
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Craig Anderson 2nd: Jeff Carter 3rd: Scott Hartnell
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
"(Vokoun) hadn't been getting it done for us," said Florida coach Peter DeBoer. "We had been in this position earlier in the year and made a change. The team responded and Craig responded."
The victory earned the Panthers a much-needed two points in the Eastern Conference playoff race with seven games remaining.
The Panthers trail eighth-place Montreal by two points for the eighth and final playoff spot after the Canadiens beat the Lightning in overtime Thursday 3-2. The Panthers are now four points out from the seventh-place Rangers, who picked up a point when losing to Atlanta 5-4 in a shootout.
Jeff Carter scored his team-leading 41st goal and Scott Hartnell added a goal for the Flyers, who had won three in a row. Philadelphia leads fifth-place Carolina by one point for home-ice advantage in the first round of the East playoffs.
"You have to give them credit," said Flyers center Danny Briere, who had an assist. "They played a little better and we didn't play as well. Sometimes, that happens."
Anderson was sharp throughout for the Panthers, who came in averaging an NHL-worst 34.6 shots against per game.
"It keeps you in the game, it keeps you fresh, it keeps your mind out of it," Anderson said. "It's just a read-and-react game then."
McLean put Florida ahead 3-2 at 2:38 of the third. Flyers defenseman Andrew Alberts turned the puck over in his zone, and McLean took advantage of a wide-open rebound in front of goalie Martin Biron.
Biron stopped 24 shots and lost for only the fourth time in last 12 games.
"We did a lot of things right," Biron said. "We missed a lot of chances. I think we played well at times. We just made too many mistakes, and they took advantage."
Booth put the game away with an empty-net, power-play goal with 32.5 seconds remaining.
With only 3.8 seconds left in the second period, the Flyers tied it at 2 when Hartnell received Carter's pass from behind the net and scored.
The sold-out crowd erupted for Hartnell's 28th goal, largely because the fan favorite was the centerpiece of a promotion. The first 5,000 young fans received a Hartnell wig as a tribute to the curly-topped forward, who hasn't had a haircut in more than 17 months.
"The guys were having fun with me before the game," Hartnell said. "They thought it was pretty funny. To score a goal on this night is good, but I would rather have gotten the win."
Philadelphia kept the pressure on throughout much of the second period and got even at 1 on Carter's goal. Carter picked up the puck at the red line, streaked in and fired a wrist shot past Anderson.
Just 23 seconds later, Ballard's shot ricocheted off Biron's pad. Dvorak fired in the rebound for a 2-1 Panthers advantage at 5:30.
"They got a couple of rebounds and scored," Biron said. "I felt like the puck was sticking to me well, but a couple pucks came out on rebounds, and they were able to score."
Florida took a 1-0 lead on the power play when Stillman deflected Jay Bouwmeester's shot from the point over Biron's shoulder at 11:25 of the first period. It was Stillman's 15th goal this season.
Notes: Bouwmeester played in his 334th consecutive game, extending the NHL's longest active streak, dating to the 2003-04 season. ... The Flyers recalled D Danny Syvret from Philadelphia (AHL), but he was scratched from the lineup. ... Philadelphia is the only NHL team that hasn't allowed a short-handed goal this season. ... Carter registered his 100th career assist.
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 FLA
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 FLA
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4 - 2 FLA