It has been a while since Scott Clemmensen started a game for the Panthers and stole a victory.
Clemmensen got a chance to shine Sunday and did just that, turning back 40 shots to earn top player honors in Florida’s 2-1 victory over Ottawa at BB&T Center.
The Panthers have won four of the past five games with Jacob Markstrom and Clemmensen giving up a total of nine goals in the wins.
“Clemmensen stood on his head for us,” said defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, whose wrister on a power play served as the game-winning goal. “We needed that.”
It has been no secret Clemmensen has struggled this season as Sunday’s win — one in which Florida was outshot 41-17 — was just his third of the season and first since Feb. 26.
“It has been a long time since my last win, unfortunately,” Clemmensen said.
The Senators, who might be slipping out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, enjoyed a nice South Florida Saturday off and came out flying.
Ottawa, which had won 11 of the past 12 against the Panthers, made it a 1-0 game when former Tampa Bay forward Cory Conacher — traded to Ottawa a day after playing the Panthers last Tuesday — tapped in a shot after being allowed to camp out in front of Clemmensen’s cage with 7:34 left in the first.
Few would have figured that would be it for the Sens. In the final 40 minutes, Ottawa peppered Clemmensen with 30 shots — including a few in a hectic final minute with two extra attackers. Clemmensen seemed unfazed.
“It’s nice to win no matter who you are playing or the situation,” said Clemmensen, now 3-6-2 this season. “This team has been working hard. They get paid too, and sometimes they get the best of you. Regardless, we got the win. That’s the name of the game no matter the fashion in which it comes.”
Said coach Kevin Dineen: “We were all happy with Clem’s performance tonight, including his teammates. It was one of those where he was the difference maker. They put a lot of pressure on us, and we were able to withstand it.”
Clemmensen’s biggest save came with 4:11 left in the second when Kyle Turris ripped a shot that Clemmensen leapt at and got a piece of with his leg pad. The puck was close to going across the line, so much so, it was officially looked at via video in Toronto. Replays showed the puck didn’t fully cross the line.
“I shouldn’t have had to make that save in that fashion,’’ Clemmensen said. “Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good.’’
Florida — 0-5 in the second game of a back-to-back set coming in — tied the score early in the second when Marcel Goc knocked in a nice shot from Tomas Fleischmann 1:08 into the second. Florida had seven shots at that point and would take just one more over the next 15 minutes.
Kulikov got his second game-winner in a week by rifling a shot past Craig Anderson — whom Clemmensen replaced as Tomas Vokoun’s backup here in 2009 — midway through the third. Florida was being outshot 34-14 at that point and ended up taking just three more shots at Anderson.
Anderson, who played three seasons with the Panthers, lives in South Florida during the offseason and trained with Roberto Luongo at the Panthers’ facility in Coral Springs during the lockout.
On Sunday, he lost to the Panthers in regulation for the first time in 11 decisions. Anderson had won eight in a row against his former team since leaving for Colorado as a free agent on July 1, 2009.
“Don’t discount that he has a home here, works out here,” Dineen said. “He has a quality fanbase and friendbase here. So good for him, but good for us in finally busting that bubble.”
Dineen has been more than a little unhappy with his team’s perceived treatment from officials this season — and it does seem the Panthers, as general manager Dale Tallon said Sunday, get “no respect.”
On Sunday, Dineen was livid after officials missed, or just didn’t call, a obvious trip from Ottawa’s Erik Condra on T.J. Brennan during a third-period power play.
Florida would have had an extended 5-on-3 chance had the trip been called. Kulikov scored during that power play anyway. Florida was 1-for-1 on the power play Sunday; the Sens were 0-5.
“We worked so hard to get some respectability last year,” Dineen said. “These guys are human; they look at the standings before the game and go, ‘This thing should play out a certain way.’ We get no respect, and it’s our fault. Our situation is what it is.”