CALGARY – While the Florida Panthers were playing a near perfect game, the Calgary Flames were searching for answers to a hapless offence.
Radek Dvorak scored twice and Tomas Vokoun made 27 saves as Florida blanked the Flames 3-0 on Thursday for the Panthers’ first victory of the season.
After one-goal losses in Edmonton and Vancouver, Florida wrapped up its season-opening Western Canada road trip with a superb all-round game in front of Vokoun, who earned career shutout No. 39.
“This is my fourth year in Florida and this is one of the best games I’ve seen us play,” said Vokoun, who was tested just 10 times in the first two periods. “We were playing exactly how we wanted and it was a great effort from everybody.”
Vokoun has always played well against Calgary. In his career versus the Flames, he’s 13-4-4 and lowered his career goals against average to 1.88. Only against the New York Islanders (1.84) has Vokoun compiled a lower career GAA.
“You need your goalie to make the saves when the game is in doubt. It was a tight-checking game but we’re fortunate to get a quick couple goals and it’s tough to come back when you fall behind in this league,” Vokoun said.
The Panthers seized control of the game early with Dvorak scoring on consecutive shifts.
At 4:20, Marty Reasoner showed great strength shaking off rookie Flames centre Mikael Backlund and whipping a backhand towards the net. Miikka Kiprusoff kicked out his pad to make the stop, but Dvorak swept in the rebound.
Three minutes later, Dvorak ripped a wicked slapshot from off the wing that clanged in off the goal post with a crowd of players screening Kiprusoff.
“Reasoner made a nice play taking both guys to the net and I had no one on the other side so I decided to take the shot and I don’t think Kipper saw that puck at all,” said Dvorak.
Shawn Matthias also scored for Florida (1-2-0), which now head home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning in their home opener on Saturday.
“It’s nice to get the first win out of the way, it’s always the toughest one, now we can sleep well tonight,” said Matthias.
Before returning to action Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary (1-2-0) will look for answers to its slumbering offence.
Goal scoring is an area the players acknowledged they needed to improve upon entering this season as the Flames finished second-last in that category last year in missing the playoffs.
However, Calgary has been shut out twice and mustered just three goals through its first three games—one of them an empty netter.
“After the first five minutes of the first period and until the end of the second, our compete level wasn’t there,” said Alex Tanguay. “We were second to the puck, they seemed to be winning every battle. When you don’t play with the puck, it’s tough to win.”
Not helping is the continued absence of Daymond Langkow (neck) as well as the recent injury to Rene Bourque (head). Better years are also expected from forwards David Moss (shoulder) and Ales Kotalik (knee), but they are also amongst the Flames’ seven injured players.
Trailing 2-0, Calgary got its first power play halfway through the second period but were held without a shot as the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 19,289 started to get restless.
“On the power play, instead of settling it down, taking time and moving the puck around a little bit and making plays, we just force the issue,” said Tanguay. “We take a bad shot, it hits their pads, they get the puck and then we’re 200 feet down the ice and we have to start over.”
The Flames were soundly booed off the ice after both the second and third periods.
“We were a team that played a very soft game,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “At the end of the day if you really want to score goals you’ve got to get into tough areas.”
Through three games, the Flames’ top line of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Tanguay have zero points. There was optimism leading up to Thursday’s game given the trio had combined for 22 shots in those first two games and had generated some dangerous scoring chances.
However, they were not a factor against the Panthers with Jokinen’s wrist shot 13 seconds into the game the only shot the line generated before they were split up for the third period.
“We’re a better team then what we’ve shown in two out of three games. In order for us to be in the playoffs, we’ll have to show some consistency,” Tanguay said.
Kiprusoff finished with 15 saves.
Notes: Staios took the place of Adam Pardy (shoulder) and partnered with rookie Brodie. . . Remaining a healthy scratch was Flames D Cory Sarich, who is stuck at 749 career NHL games. . . Calgary C Matt Stajan (shoulder) made his season debut centring a line with Brendan Morrison and Niclas Hagman. . . Florida’s second period too many men on the ice penalty ended a stretch of over 117 minutes without a penalty. . . Florida LW Kenndal McArdle, 23, played his first game of the season. McArdle has played 22 games with the Panthers over the past two seasons. . . Florida is a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill through its first three games.