Anderson stopped 25 shots, David Booth had a goal and two assists and the Panthers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 on Thursday night to stay within seven points of Carolina in the Southeast Division standings.
After carrying Florida to consecutive 1-0 victories and setting a slew of NHL records in the process, Anderson’s bid for a third consecutive shutout ended early. But afterward, all that mattered to him was that the Panthers opened a critical seven-game homestand with a victory.
“You want your best games at the end of the year when you’re getting that playoff push,” Anderson said. “You want to be playing your best hockey. Look at other teams that were playing good at the start of the year. They’re kind of fading off right now, but we want to continue to play strong.”
Ryan Malone scored his 24th goal and Kristopher Letang got his fifth for Pittsburgh, which had beaten Florida in the teams’ last five meetings. Reigning Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby, in his second game back since suffering a high ankle sprain and missing six weeks of action, had an assist for the Penguins.
“We just didn’t come out the right way and we definitely paid for it,” Crosby said. “This time of year, you can’t afford to do that.”
No other goalie in league history—since such stats began being kept in the 1955-56 season—had ever stopped more than 75 shots in consecutive shutouts. And now Panthers coach Jacques Martin will have a dilemma: Does he stay with Anderson, or put the team’s No. 1 goalie, Tomas Vokoun, back in the lineup for Saturday night against Atlanta?
“We’ll see,” Martin said.
By the time Anderson faced his first shot against the Penguins, he already had a 2-0 lead.
Booth opened the scoring at 4:19 of the first on a picture-perfect goal, a play where Nathan Horton carried the puck down the left wing boards and tapped it to Weiss, who found Booth for his 20th. Olesz got his 12th of the season 39 seconds later.
Those quick two goals matched Florida’s total in its previous 134 minutes, 20 seconds of play.
“Makes it a lot easier than being down a goal, especially against that team,” Weiss said.
From there, all eyes were on Anderson—whose streak would soon end. Malone tapped in a rebound at 6:19 of the first, snapping Anderson’s run of 106 consecutive saves.
“Once they scored, it was actually a big weight off my chest,” Anderson said. “There was a little bit of pressure there.”
The Panthers restored the two-goal lead late in the first, when Weiss scored off a rebound against Marc-Andre Fleury at 17:54. Fleury stopped 16 of 19 shots in the opening period, and was replaced by Ty Conklin to start the second.
“I tried everything in my power as a coach to try to change momentum, get the attention from players,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
The teams traded goals in the opening minutes of the second, with McLean getting his 11th for Florida and Letang scoring when his knuckling shot beat Anderson midway through the period.
Crosby had a great chance to get Pittsburgh within 4-3 with 5:50 left in the second, skating in alone on Anderson, but couldn’t get a shot off.
“I think he was scared of my poke-check,” Anderson said.
All kidding aside, the Panthers’ goalie was flawless the rest of the way.
Dave Zenobi, the Florida Panthers’ trainer who helped save right wing Richard Zednik’s life, was honored before the game with the ADT Good Sport Award. Zednik was part of the ceremony and drew a loud ovation. … Nine-time Olympic swimming medalist Dara Torres, a South Florida resident, dropped the ceremonial first puck.