So they had to be breathing at least a small sigh of relief Sunday when they took the ice at the BankAtlantic Center and saw Scott Clemmensen in the opposing net instead.
No offense to Clemmensen, who won 25 games for New Jersey last season, but Vokoun had shut the Bruins out in each of his previous two starts against them. And while Clemmensen played a sound game, Michael Ryder and Marco Strum got pucks past him and that was enough for Boston to claim a 2-1 victory, their third in a row.
"It was just a matter of time. Our team is starting to gel a little bit," coach Claude Julien said. "We've had some new faces in our line-up, but I think we're starting to understand the concept of what we're looking for and just try to keep getting better."
Tim Thomas made 25 saves for the Bruins, who have games remaining at Tampa Bay on Monday and home against Atlanta on Wednesday before taking the ice at Fenway Park for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
Dominic Moore had the only goal for the Panthers and Clemmensen stopped 26 shots. Florida coach Peter DeBoer liked what he saw in the backup goalie during a Dec. 19 start in Carolina and elected to play him despite Vokoun's excellent track record against Boston.
"You make (the decision to start Clemmensen) on a gut (feeling) and I just thought it was the right thing to do," DeBoer said. "Scott played very well against Carolina in his last start, and I felt he deserved another opportunity."
Sturm scored off a tip at 4:39 of the third for the deciding goal, his 11th of the season.
"It was a tough game that could have gone either way," Clemmensen said. "In this League, there's never a margin of error."
Thomas made sure the Panthers never got that goal back, stopping Jordan Leopold on their final opportunity with four seconds remaining.
"Especially at that time you try to be ready for everything," Thomas said. "I think it bounced off a shin pad and went right to one of their guys. … I just tried to stay with the puck as long as possible and fortunately was able to get a glove on it."
Moore scored 4:09 into the first and the Panthers held a 1-0 lead after the opening period. Boston got its first goal against Florida in three games when Ryder, screening Clemmensen in front, was able to redirect a point shot by Andrew Ference with 3:58 left in the second.
Material from wire services was used in this report.
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie