PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have plenty to contemplate over the holiday break this week after watching the Florida Panthers play the role of "Scrooge" before plenty of disgruntled fans on Monday at Wells Fargo Center.
The Panthers received goals from five different players and veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun made 26 saves to lead the visitors, ranked 27th in the NHL, to a well-earned 5-0 victory over the League-leading Flyers. Vokoun, who notched his first shutout against the Flyers in 17 appearances and the 42nd of his career, made 10 stops in the final period.
"I'm sure we caught them with one foot out the door for Christmas break but we'll take it," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "I'm not going to complain. Our guys came to play and got that early lead. It might have been a different story if they scored in the first 10 minutes and got the crowd into it, but we got some big saves when we needed them and some timely goals."
At about the same time fans started filing out of the arena, the Panthers were drilling home their fifth of the game at 11:35 of the third when Dmitry Kulikov ripped home a snap shot from the left circle that beat Brian Boucher, who replaced starter Sergei Bobrovsky, underneath the left arm.
It marked the third straight game in which the Panthers forced the opposing starter to the bench and the third time this season the Flyers were shut out. It was also the second time the Flyers lost to a team below .500 at the time of the game. Florida entered the contest 14-16-0. The other setback was the 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Oct. 21 -- the Ducks were 2-4-1 entering the game.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette scoffed at the notion the loss might be deemed a wake-up call.
"I'm not sure getting shut out in your building is a good thing, so no (it shouldn't be a wake-up call)," Laviolette said. "I'm failing to see the silver lining in it. Right now, we're going into a break and it's unacceptable. I thought Florida played a good game. They were first in all areas … they were first on puck on faceoffs, first to loose pucks, first on the forecheck, first to open ice. They played and competed at a high level and our level wasn't where it needed to be."
Flyer captain Mike Richards took a similar approach.
"I think you can never settle for a loss, especially on a way like that," Richards said. "You want to go into the break feeling good about yourself and this is going to leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It's disappointing, obviously, especially at home where we have played so well lately. But, we are going to have some time to get some rest, recover, heal up some bumps and bruises that we've had. We have a pretty critical stretch after Christmas so maybe this is going to kick our (butt) into gear a little bit."
The seemingly-listless Flyers, who had their five-game winning streak snapped while losing in regulation for the first time in nine games (7-1-1), basically got what they deserved against a more determined and energetic opponent. And while that does happen every so often, the Flyers will have to agonize over this one for the next seven days until their Dec. 28 contest against the Canucks.
Florida, meanwhile, has outscored its last two opponents, 11-2, en route to stringing together two straight wins. Over the last three games, they've chased Carolina's Cam Ward, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Bobrovsky on consecutive nights.
"Scoring three or four goals is something we're not used to," DeBoer said. "We've chased some really good goalies in Ward (Carolina on Dec. 15), Miller (Dec. 17) and now Bobrovsky. It's nice to get the points. We talked about getting to the break at or near the .500 mark and I like the way our schedule sets up next month."
Florida, which will meet Pittsburgh on Wednesday before traveling to Buffalo on Thursday, opened a 4-0 lead with two goals in the second. Shawn Matthias snuck a backhander past Sergei Bobrovsky at 3:53 before an onrushing Mike Santorelli converted a one-timer in the slot off a feed from Steve Bernier from deep in the left corner at 13:12. Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell lost his edge in the corner, giving Bernier all the time he needed to pinpoint Santorelli in the slot.
"We knew it would be tough for them in their last game before their break … at home for Christmas," Vokoun said. "I think we started patient and, the key lately has been the ability to put the puck in the net. That takes the pressure off our defense, off our penalty kill and, obviously, it's easier to play when you have a lead."
Santorelli's 10th goal of the season forced Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to replace Bobrovsky with Boucher, marking the second time this season the Russian rookie was pulled. Bobrovsky, who allowed four goals on 22 shots, was also yanked in an 8-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 18 after yielding four goals on 11 shots.
"You'd like to think as professional athletes you come and you play hard 82 nights, but there are some nights where it's no excuse, but we've had some really tough games lately with the Rangers, Pittsburgh, Boston and Montreal, 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. We're just going to do the same thing tonight.”
Laviolette didn't put blame on Bobrovsky; rather, his entire team. The Flyers were outshot, 34-26.
"I worry about everything (not just the goalies)," Laviolette said. "It was a bad game. Our team is capable of winning hockey games and I would expect that with the (butt)-kicking we just took, we'll be responsive after the break."
The Flyers appeared uninterested and lackadaisical in the opening 20 minutes, perhaps looking ahead to a cushy five-day break before departing for Vancouver on Sunday for the first of three games on the West Coast.
The opportunistic Panthers opened the scoring at 17:27 when Bill Thomas took a feed from Steve Reinprecht at the bottom of the right circle before whisking a shot into the crease that deflected off the left knee of defenseman Oskars Bartulis and past Bobrovsky.
Dynamic Russian rookie Evgeny Dadonov (one goal, one assist) made it 2-0 when he gathered a loose puck, skated in on Bobrovsky and slid a wrist shot underneath the fallen goalie off a semi-breakaway at 19:16. It was the perfect start to a three-game road trip for the Panthers, who are without three of their big guns on offense in Byron Bitz (sports hernia), Rostislav Olesz (broken finger), Radek Dvorak (shoulder) and Cory Stillman (back).
"You know, (secondary scoring) was the difference," DeBoer said. "We had depth scoring tonight; when we've got the guys sitting at home, Dvorak, Stillman, and Olesz, you know, we're really relying on some of these American League guys to come in here and eat up minutes."
Vokoun also enjoyed the support.
"We need that (secondary) scoring," Vokoun said. "We can't put pressure on one or two players. Our problem in the past was secondary scoring. When your top players aren't putting the puck in the net, it's nice to see other guys having success."
Despite the loss, the Flyers head into the Christmas break 22-8-5 -- identical to their record at the same time of the year in 2005-06.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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