The Florida Panthers figure they caught the Philadelphia Flyers thinking about the holiday break.
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Tomas Vokoun earned his fourth shutout of the season and rookie Evgeny Dadonov had a goal and an assist to lead Florida to an easy, 5-0 win over the Flyers on Monday night.
Bill Thomas, Shawn Matthias, Mike Santorelli and Dmitry Kulikov also scored for the Panthers, who won for the fifth time in seven games and stopped the NHL’s top team.
”I’m sure we caught them with one foot out the door for Christmas break, but we’ll take it,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. ”Our guys came to play, and we got that early lead. The difference is those first 10 minutes. If they would’ve got one and got the crowd into it, it might have been a different story. We got some big saves when we needed and some timely goals.”
The Flyers lost in regulation for the first time since being shut out by Boston goalie Tim Thomas on Dec. 1, a rare hiccup during a month in which they had secured 15 of a possible 18 points through their previous nine games, streaking to a league-leading 22 wins and 49 points. Philadelphia entered having won seven of eight.
Vokoun’s fourth shutout tied him with Carey Price for third in the league, one behind Thomas and the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist. It was the 42nd shutout of Vokoun’s career, and his first against the Flyers in 17 starts.
Vokoun stopped 26 shots. Philadelphia had only 16 shots on goal through the first two periods.
”We took advantage,” Vokoun said. ”We knew it was going to be a tough game for them, the last game at home before the Christmas break. We started well and played a patient game. The key lately has been putting the puck in the net. It takes the pressure off our defense and penalty killing. It’s easier to play with a lead.”
Philadelphia’s next game is Dec. 28 at Vancouver, marking the Flyers’ longest break of the season.
In the previous meeting with Florida this season, the Flyers cruised to a 5-2 win on Nov. 13. Mike Richards and Claude Giroux each scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 34 shots.
Bobrovsky, a rookie, wasn’t anywhere near as effective Monday in just his second start in six games.
The Panthers scored twice in the final 2:33 of the opening period. Thomas scored first at 17:27, when his shot from below the right faceoff circle deflected off the left knee of Oskars Bartulis and over Bobrovsky’s shoulder.
Less than 2 minutes later, Dadonov scored on a breakaway, beating Bobrovsky to the left side.
Matthias made it 3-0 in the second period. Marty Reasoner’s shot hit the post and bounced to Matthias, who easily flipped it in the net. Bobrovsky’s night ended when Sean O’Donnell slipped collecting the puck in his own zone and Steve Bernier made a cross-ice pass to Santorelli, who fired a one-timer past Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky stopped 18 of 22 shots. Kulikov scored the final goal against Brian Boucher with 8:25 left.
The Flyers appeared lethargic in their final game before the break. Philadelphia was coming off wins against tough conference opponents in the Bruins, Penguins, Canadiens and Rangers.
”We had some tough games lately, and we did well,” O’Donnell said. ”We weren’t able to get up for this game. It shouldn’t happen, but we’re human beings and it did.
”Sometimes, there are games you can’t get up for. They played hard, and we didn’t bring it. We got outworked. We deserved to lose 5-0 tonight.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette figures his team will come back strong after the break.
”It was a bad game,” he said. ”Our team is capable of winning hockey games, and I would expect that the (beating) that we just took will make us responsive after the break.”
Florida was coming off a 6-2 win over Buffalo on Friday. The Panthers also blanked the Capitals in Washington, 3-0, on Dec. 9. They play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and in Buffalo on Thursday before the holiday.
”We lost some tough games, but always came back strong against good teams,” Vokoun said. ”We have good character. We always get close to .500, then we have that one game when we could go on that winning side, and we lose the game. We just have to get over that hump. If we play like we’ve been playing, anything is possible.”
NOTES: Reasoner has 150 career assists. … Philadelphia is 38-24-7-1 against the Panthers. … The Panthers have yet to have a game go to overtime this season.