MIAMI (AP) — Finally playing on home ice seemed to inspire the Florida Panthers, but facing one of the league’s top goaltenders likely will present another tough challenge.
Florida looks to build off a solid offensive performance as it hosts Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
The Panthers (2-3-0) began their season playing four road games and were outscored 16-3 while dropping the final three contests. They kicked off a stretch of playing eight of nine at home, though, by scoring four of the game’s last five goals in Friday’s 6-3 win over Pittsburgh.
“It was a big night for us, a big character win against a very good team,” said Kris Versteeg, who had a goal and an assist. “So we’re excited about that.”
Though coach Kevin Dineen would like to see more consistency as the season progresses, he was pleased with his team’s performance after a tough road stretch.
“It was better (Friday),” Dineen said. “We’ve been riding a roller coaster and that’s a bad way to do an 82-game season – good, bad, good, bad. We’re looking for a little stability to it.”
Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and three assists, while Brad Boyes scored twice and added his first assist of the season. Boyes has scored in three straight games.
“Right now I’m definitely feeling good,” said Boyes, a 40-goal scorer in 2007-08 with St. Louis. “It’s about opportunities and when you get them, capitalize on them. That’s something when things go well and you’re scoring the goals like I was in years past, you’re getting those bounces and pucks are finding you. It’s been good that it’s been happening so far.”
The Panthers may have a more difficult time finding the back of the net Sunday against Quick, who is coming off a 27-save effort in Friday’s 2-1 shootout win over Carolina.
Quick, the leading candidate to start for Team USA in the upcoming Sochi Olympics, stopped all three shootout attempts.
“He’s a top-class goalie, and he showed it,” winger Dwight King said.
King scored short-handed and Jeff Carter had the shootout winner for Los Angeles (3-2-0), which has won two straight after dropping its previous two.
The Kings had a prime opportunity to win in overtime, but they failed to convert a 4-on-3 power play. They’ve gone 2 for 11 with the man advantage in their last three contests.
“That needs a little work,” Carter said. “But we ended up with two points. It’s never easy coming all the way out here (to the East Coast).”
Los Angeles’ last trip to face the Panthers didn’t go well, falling 3-1 on Feb. 9, 2012, to end a seven-game winning streak in the series. Quick was pulled in that contest after allowing two goals on 11 shots, but he’s 3-1-0 with a 2.14 goals-against average in four career starts against Florida.
Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas is recovering from a strained groin suffered in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Philadelphia. Jacob Markstrom has started the last two games, giving up six goals before being pulled in the third period of Thursday’s 7-2 loss to Tampa Bay but bouncing back to make 36 saves Friday.
Scott Clemmensen also is on the roster and made four saves in relief of Markstrom on Thursday. It’s unclear who will be in net for this contest.
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