PHILADELPHIA – The Florida Panthers protected their third-period lead thanks in large part to a backup goalie who hadn’t played in nearly a month.
Brett McLean scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, Craig Anderson made 40 saves, and the Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak and David Booth also scored for the Panthers, who started the night below the post-season cutoff in the Eastern Conference. Florida hasn’t advanced to the playoffs since 2000.
“I had an idea last night, but it got finalized (Thursday) morning,” Anderson said. “I just came in for a couple of shots this morning, got myself ready and I think the guys did a terrific job in front of me.
“It was a solid defensive effort.”
Anderson got the start over Tomas Vokoun, who surrendered three goals on 20 shots in Florida’s 5-3 loss at Buffalo on Wednesday when the Panthers gave up a two-goal lead in the third period.
“The other guy hadn’t been getting it done for us,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said of Vokoun. “We had been in this position earlier in the year and made a change.
“The team responded and Craig responded.”
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 centre Danny Briere, who had an assist. “They played a little better and we didn’t play as well. Sometimes, that happens.”
Anderson hadn’t played since March 1 at Washington, but he 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 defenceman 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 favourite was the centrepiece 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, Keith 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.
Before Florida took the lead, the game was rather chippy.
Only three seconds into the game, Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo and Florida’s Gregory Campbell had a fight. There were 10 penalties were called in the first period.
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.