Ottawa Senators Martin Gerber keeps his eyes on the puck as he makes a save against the Florida Panthers during first period NHL action in Ottawa Wednesday. (CP/Tom Hanson)
Gerber made 28 saves in his first game in relief of Ray Emery as the Senators defeated the Florida Panthers 4-0 Wednesday night. Emery, the Senators No. 1 goaltender, was serving the first game of a three-game suspension for slashing Maxim Lapierre of the Montreal Canadiens in the face last Saturday in Montreal.
The shutout was the first of the season for Gerber and the seventh of his career. It was also his first since Jan. 7, 2006.
"It's a win, and every win is huge," Gerber said. "It felt really good to get back on the ice and get some work and it was fun to play."
Gerber has made just seven starts since losing the starting job to Emery at the end of November, but he has won six of them.
"It feels good, especially getting the two points at home. It's just one game though so we have to get prepared for the next one," he said.
Chris Phillips, Mike Fisher, Mike Comrie and Dean McAmmond scored for the Senators (33-22-3) who have won three straight. The Panthers (22-26-11) got a 29-save performance from Ed Belfour, but it wasn't enough as they saw their modest two-game winning streak come to an end.
The Senators spread their scoring around as 10 players had a point, and no player had more than one.
"It was spread out pretty good," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had an assist.
"Everybody was working hard and we got (the Panthers) where we wanted them. We got the lead and we were able to play smart and make them go on the offence when they're more of a defensive team."
The Senators remained tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins who won 5-4 in a shootout over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night. Both teams have 69 points but the Penguins have played two fewer games. Only seven points separate them from ninth place in the conference.
Comrie put the Senators ahead 3-0 at 8:10 of the third period. The goal came while the Senators were skating five-on-three as Panthers' defenceman Ruslan Salei and Bryan Allen sat in the penalty box. Comrie poked in a loose puck after Belfour made the original save and was unable to get to the rebound.
McAmmond closed out the scoring with just over five minutes to play.
The Senators led 1-0 after the first period and went into the third with a 2-0 advantage. They outshot the Panthers 10-7 in the final period.
Phillips opened the scoring as he came around from behind the net and put a shot over top of the netminder as he was sliding across the crease. The goal was his career-high eighth of the season. He had seven goals in 2003-04.
Chris Gratton seemed to give the Panthers a lift following his fight with Senators forward Mike Fisher midway through the first period. The Panthers registered the final 10 shots of the period but were unable to beat Gerber and tie the score.
The Senators doubled their lead at 7:42 of the second period on Fisher's 11th goal of the season. Panthers defenceman Ruslan Salei coughed up the puck behind his own net and Peter Schaefer sent it out front to Fisher who let go a one-timer from the slot.
"We had a pretty good start but penalties changed the momentum," said Panthers coach Jacques Martin.
"A couple of turnovers made it difficult on us. We got a couple of opportunities but no real rebounds, just a lot of single shots."
The Senators were able to capitalize on just one of their six power play opportunities while the Panthers were held scoreless during three man advantages.
Notes: The Senators host the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday and the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. The Panthers return home to face their cross-state rivals when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday and then play in Tampa on Tuesday.