The Panthers haven’t enjoyed much success at the building currently called PNC Arena, beating the host Hurricanes just 11 times since it opened in 1999.
On Saturday night, however, the Panthers had a secret weapon. For the first time, Florida had a former Carolina goalie defending its net.
Dan Ellis looked right at home in recording his first shutout in over a year in Florida’s 2-0 victory.
“I like the building,” said Ellis, who spent the lockout-shortened 2013 season with the Canes.
“I like the lighting, like the angles of the seats and everything. They have a good fan base. The ice was a little soft but having played here and practiced here a number of times, I’m comfortable here.”
Ellis has done a standup job in filling in for Roberto Luongo and is 3-0-1 in four starts since being called up from the minors.
In his previous three starts, Ellis was strong.
On Saturday, he was simply outstanding.
“Danny was on his head tonight,” Brian Campbell said.
Ellis, who lost all five of his starts with Florida late last season, made 27 saves in helping the Panthers to just their second three-game winning streak.
Carolina “dropped” to 30-8-4 against the Panthers at this arena.
“That’s hard to believe,” Nick Bjugstad said. “We need to keep putting wins together. It’s hard to believe this is our first winning streak in a while. We’re better than that.”
The victory was much needed after Boston won for the seventh time in eight games Saturday afternoon and Ottawa had jumped the Panthers and taken over ninth place in the East on Friday night.
Florida remains six points out of the playoffs but is now also chasing Washington as the slumping Capitals have come into view.
The Capitals, unlike the Bruins, haven’t been playing well lately, losing three of four. Washington also holds a six-point lead on Florida.
“You can do all the different calculations, but we know we have to do well against Boston, win the games in front of us,” Bjugstad said. “We can’t control how the other teams do, but we can control our game.”
Saturday’s game was a battle between two players who once shared the Carolina net in Ellis and Cam Ward.
Like Ellis, Ward (20 saves) was strong in holding off the Florida charge and made one big save after another.
For much of the game, Ellis kept it scoreless or defended a 1-0 lead after Brandon Pirri’s power-play goal with 3:40 left in the second.
Ellis didn’t get much room to breathe until Dave Bolland popped in an empty-net goal with 40 seconds remaining.
With Luongo still out with a shoulder injury, Ellis might be pressed into double duty Sunday afternoon at New York.
If Florida thinks Luongo can go, he will start against the Rangers. If not, Ellis is back.
“He’s been real good, and the guys have been working hard for him,” coach Gerard Gallant said.
When asked what the chances were Ellis would play Sunday, Gallant said, “I would say they are really good. I’m not saying Luongo is out for sure, but my guess is Ellis goes Sunday.’’
The Panthers gave defenseman Steven Kampfer a two-year contract extension Saturday. Kampfer came to the Panthers in a preseason deal with the Rangers of AHL players.
Kampfer stood out in San Antonio, however, and has been solid since being recalled by the Panthers last month.
With seven healthy defensemen on the roster, it has been Kampfer playing instead of Alex Petrovic.
“I’m really happy because I get to be a Florida Panther for another two years, and that’s exciting,’’ Kampfer said after Saturday’s morning skate. “It’s humbling when a team wants you. I’m excited for the years to come.”
▪ Bjugstad was called for a very questionable embellishment call, one he and general manager Dale Tallon strongly disagreed with.
Bjugstad was hooked by Eric Staal and pulled his arm off his stick. One ref apparently thought Bjugstad hit the ice, which he did not.
“I kept going through the play, was driving the net,” Bjugstad said. “They’re trying to bear down on guys embellishing, but I didn’t embellish. We’ll see what happens.”
Up next: Panthers at Rangers
When, where: 5 p.m. Sunday, Madison Square Garden, New York.
TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM 560.
Series: New York leads 47-32-6.
Noteworthy: The Panthers are 0-2 against New York and lost 6-3 at Madison Square Garden in February after the Rangers scored three in the third.