SUNRISE, Fla. - Tomas Vokoun finally showed why Florida traded for him in the off-season. In the process, he helped his new team get its first victory of the season.
After struggling in his first two outings of the season, Vokoun stopped 29 shots in the Florida Panthers' 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. "Tonight he gave us a real good game," Panthers coach and general manager Jacques Martin said. "Tonight he was the difference in the game. He definitely shut the door on them."
Vokoun was particularly strong in the first period when he stopped 10 New Jersey shots, including a back-hander from Jay Pandolfo from close range.
"It's always important to have a good start," Vokoun said. "It's like a domino effect. It's been tough for me, too.
"It's a new environment. The people who brought me here expect me to do well. It was a rough start, a couple of tough games."
Vokoun came into the game having allowed nine goals in two games and sporting a mediocre .816 save percentage. He ended the night with his 22nd career shutout.
"Vokoun is our guy," said captain Olli Jokinen, who scored one of the Florida goals. "He showed it tonight. He made some huge saves. He was sharp all night, and he's going to keep doing that."
Rostislav Olesz and Nathan Horton also scored for the Panthers, whose 0-3 start matched the worst in franchise history.
"It was only three games, but we wanted to win one to get it out of the way," Horton said. "It was a big game tonight, a big game for our confidence."
Martin Brodeur made 28 saves for the Devils, whose 1-3 start is their worst since the 2001-02 season. New Jersey's only victory came last Saturday when they defeated the Panthers 4-1.
"We've had trouble defensively, but today was not too bad," said Brodeur. "We didn't put the puck in the net tonight. If it's not something, it's the other."
"We're going to get it together somehow. Hopefully, it will come quicker than it's going right now."
New Jersey is opening the season on a nine-game road trip while construction is completed on its new arena.
"The guys are competing and playing hard," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "It's always tough to lose. Don't get me wrong, this losing is brutal. You've just got to deal with it."
Florida outshot New Jersey 31-29, the fourth time in four games the Panthers outshot their opponent.
Olesz opened the scoring at 14:48 of the first with a wrister that beat Brodeur low to the stick side.
The Panthers, who scored only four goals in their first three games, got two power-play goals in the second period to break open a 1-0 game.
Jokinen scored five seconds into a 5-on-3 when he one-timed a slap shot from the point. Horton made it 3-0 with 32.3 seconds left in the period when he grabbed a loose puck inside the faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot that just went under Brodeur s right arm.
"The first few games I don't think we were very good," Florida defenseman Mike Van Ryn said. "We've been building toward this. You know, baby steps."
Notes: Devils D Richard Matvichuk didn't make the trip with his teammates, a day after Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said the team would trade him. ... D Branislav Mezei was a healthy scratch. ... Florida scored the first goal for the first time in four games this season. ... Martin coached in his 1,020th game, passing Pat Burns for ninth place on the NHL's career list.