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Panthers cruise past Stars in 6-0 win

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- With three goals from their top line and two more from their defensemen, the Florida Panthers showed why they are among the best road teams in the National Hockey League with a 6-0 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.

"I think we catch a team coming off the road, for one. When teams come off the road, there's something that makes it hard to come out," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "I think we smelled some opportunity. They played a very complete game in all facets."

With the victory, Florida has now won four straight on the road and is 7-3-0 away from home this season, giving them the most road wins in the NHL. Dallas dropped their third straight and suffered just their second home defeat of the season.

"I just think we're more relaxed on the road, for whatever reason," said Panthers forward Stephen Weiss, who had a goal and two assists and was a plus-6. "I think we're a little cute at home and not as good defensively as we are on the road. Maybe that's because we've got a lot of new guys and we want to put on a show for the fans."

The visitors' first goal came at 16:44 of the opening period when Dmitry Kulikov connected for his first tally of the season, beating Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen low on his blocker side with a wrister.

Just 1:24 later, Florida doubled its advantage when fellow defenseman Jason Garrison connected on a 51-foot slap shot from near the blue line, beating Lehtonen high above his blocker for his seventh goal of the season.

Dallas looked to cut the Panthers' edge in half with a flurry of shots midway through the second period but the Stars were unable to get past Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who earned the shutout in his first appearance of the season.

But Florida wasn't quite done scoring and at 15:02 in the second, the Panthers made it 3-0 when Tomas Fleischmann scored off a long wrister following some great leg work from Weiss and Kris Versteeg, who both assisted on the tally.

The Panthers' top line then delivered again at 19:52 of the second when Weiss found the back of the net for the sixth time after a great pass from Versteeg. Superb puck movement first from Fleischmann and then by Versteeg before Weiss finished from near the goal line to make it 4-0 in favor of the Panthers.

Versteeg then made it 5-0 with his ninth goal of the year halfway through the final frame. The Florida forward gained possession of the puck after a pass from Weiss at his own blue line and then took it all the way in, when he snapped a wrist shot past Lehtonen.

Florida added one final goal at 13:19 of the third when a pass from Marco Sturm struck the skate of Evgeny Dadonov and landed in the back of the net, over Lehtonen's right shoulder, making it 6-0.

After his club's worst loss of the young season, Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan didn't mince words in his postgame remarks to the press.
"I just think the honeymoon's over. You start off 11-3 and teams are prepared," Gulutzan said. "They're prepared to play you. They watch you probably a little closer. I thought Florida did a really good job of pre-scouting us. We got severely outworked."

Clemmensen was seldom tested in his seventh career shutout, stopping all 25 shots he faced. His last victory and shutout came on March 17 of this year, a 4-0 win against Toronto. Lehtonen stopped 24 of the 30 shots he faced, dropping him to 11-3-0 this season. It was just his second loss of the season at home.

"It was a good game for me to play my first game back because the team played so well in front of me, especially in those first two periods," Clemmensen said. "By the time they [Dallas] got it going, essentially it was a 20-minute game for me there in the third period and we had a 4-0 lead at that point."

After the morning skate, there was some doubt as to whether or not Dineen would start Clemmensen or go with starter Jose Theodore between the pipes. But it's safe to say he's happy with the results from his backup goalie.

"I've got some excellent choices in net. I love it when they make it hard on me to make the next decision," Dineen said.
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