RALEIGH, N.C. – Tomas Vokoun didn’t really need his quick-strike Florida teammates to score so many goals. The way he was playing, one was enough.
Vokoun made 42 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, while Anthony Stewart and Gregory Campbell scored 12 seconds apart in the second period as the Panthers routed the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0 on Thursday night.
Nathan Horton had a goal and an assist, and Michael Frolik and Richard Zednik also scored. The Panthers scored all five goals in the first 33 1/2 minutes and never eased up while claiming a rare win in Raleigh.
“I much prefer these than the dramatic ones,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said of the win. “I thought our goaltender was our best player tonight.”
Vokoun finished with the 29th shutout of his decade-long career and the first since Dec. 23 against Nashville. He became the first goalie to shut out Carolina this season.
The Panthers improved to 6-2 since the all-star break while picking up a critical two points in the Eastern Conference standings. They lead Carolina by three points in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the East.
Cam Ward stopped just nine of the 13 shots he faced before he was pulled midway through the second for Michael Leighton, who made nine saves and allowed Florida’s fifth goal.
Neither goalie had any answers for a Florida offence that entered averaging 3.63 goals in the new year and was coming off a 5-4 overtime victory over Toronto in which it erased a three-goal deficit by scoring four times in the third period and the extra session.
“We were dead in the water if we (had) lost that game,” Vokoun said. “There would be a different feeling in the dressing room. But that’s all ‘ifs.”‘
That quick-strike offence helped the Panthers put this one away with a second-period flurry led by role players Stewart and Campbell.
Stewart had a step on defenceman Niclas Wallin as he chased down a loose puck along the boards, and as Ward tried to poke it away from him, he slipped a backhander past the goalie to make it 3-0 with 10:42 left.
“I just went to the net, used one of the few moves that I have and it went in,” Stewart said. “Two goals is the worst lead in hockey, so it was good to get the third, and (Campbell) right after that to get the other one.”
Campbell then stretched the lead to four goals moments later when he chipped a rebound past Ward, and that was it for the Carolina goalie, who left at 10:30 to a stream of boos from a sellout crowd.
“We still thought we were fine after the first period,” Carolina forward Ray Whitney said. “Those two quick ones in the second obviously killed us. From then, confidence kind of slips a little bit and it just snowballs.”
Without question, this was a crushing loss for the Hurricanes. They entered having won six of eight, were back home for the first time since its West Coast swing ended with victories at San Jose and Phoenix and were hosting a Florida team that had won just once in its previous 18 visits to the RBC Center.
“It was 5-0 in your home building,” forward Tuomo Ruutu said. “It’s not acceptable.”
Horton and Zednik gave the Panthers an encouraging start in their personal house of horrors, scoring within 5 1/2 minutes of each other in the first period. Zednik – who snapped the rebound of his own shot past an outstretched Ward with about seven minutes left to make it 2-0 – has three goals in two games and points in each of his last four.
“We got some goals early,” Vokoun said, “and we basically controlled the game from there on out.”
Notes: Florida D Karlis Skrastins prevented a goal during a scrum in front of Vokoun in the final seconds of the first, falling to the ice and stopping a puck with his right thigh. … Panthers C Kamil Kreps had two assists. … Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour was back in the lineup after coming home early from last week’s West Coast trip with a groin injury that cost him two games. … Florida leads the season series 3-2.