Sunday, October 9, 2011

10/9/11 Sun-Sentinel Article

Panthers newbies contribute to 2-0 win

by: Harvey Fialkov October 9th, 2011 | 7:50 PM

UNIONDALE, N.Y. While Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was wondering how soon virtual strangers would be able to effectively mesh their skills, team scout Peter Mahovlich was curious to see how the few holdovers like David Booth and Stephen Weiss would blend in.

Both former NHL stars got the answers they wanted in the Panthers’ dominating 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders Saturday night at sold-out hostile Nassau Coliseum.

Several of the 11 new Panthers, including returnee Ed Jovanovski, stood out, particularly goalie Jose Theodore, who despite allowing 12 goals in two preseason games, sparkled in the net with 27 saves to register the first season-opening road shutout victory in franchise history.

“You could see the real commitment througout the lineup,’’ said Dineen, who was thinking of his father Bill Dineen, former Flyers coach, after notching his first win in his first game as an NHL coach.

“A lot of sacrifices are made in the transition period of this hockey business. [Family] enjoys the wins as much.

“One of my brothers [Shawn, a Nashville scout] and nephew [Ryan] are here and I know my Dad was watching on his Islanders feed.’’

Theodore was voted the game’s First Star, but defenseman Brian Campbell, the first of General Manager Dale Tallons’ offseason pickups, controlled every aspect of the victory. He doled out two assists, helped kill off all three power plays, and had three blocked shots in a team-high 30:04 ice time.

“To have a guy like that is like night and day,’’ said Weiss, who won a game-high 13 faceoffs. “How much more puck possession you have, how much easier it is for the forwards, knowing he’s going to make the right play and hang onto the puck, and let you come back and gain ice and gain speed, that he’s going to hit you at full flight.

“It’s just a pleasure to play with him because I’m sick of playing against him.’’

While Booth didn’t make the scoresheet, his speed and tenacity drew three penalties on Isles’ defenseman Mike Mottau, one resulting in a power-play goal by Jason Garrison that Islanders goalie Al Montoya was screened on by Booth.

Two more of Tallon’s talented newcomers, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, had secondary assists, but Fleischmann showed off moves not seen since the Pavel Bure years.

Prized rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson earned an, “A-plus,’’ in his NHL debut from Jovanovski, his blue-line partner and mentor, for a solid effort in his 10:04 on ice.

Theodore was all smiles after the game as he got on the elevator at the team hotel.

“You know that bothered him in the preseason; he’s a competitor,’’ Weiss said. “We knew he was going to be there for us.’’

No one is ready to cede a playoff berth as the 14th-place Islanders were only slightly better than the last-place Panthers last season. However, optimism abounds as the team headed for a day off in Pittsburgh where they will prepare to play the star-studded Penguins Tuesday.

“No complaints,’’ Jovanovski said. “The team did a lot of good things, but I think there are areas we can’t be satisfied in. We’ll enjoy this one and get back to work on Monday. There will be different challenges against Pittsburgh.’’

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