PHILADELPHIA -- Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen admits getting his first start in more than two weeks at a critical point in the season against the Philadelphia Flyers wasn't at all surprising.
"It's not necessarily a matter of not knowing or being surprised," Clemmensen told NHL.com. "It's more about staying ready and preparing like you're going to play that next game all the time."
The 34-year-old was raring to go on Tuesday after being notified by coach Kevin Dineen in the morning he would get his first start in eight games -- despite the fact Jose Theodore had gone 4-0-1 over his last five starts. Clemmensen made Dineen look like a genius by making 35 saves to lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, extending Florida's winning streak to give games and snapping his team's three-game losing streak against Philadelphia.
"My feeling was that Theo's played very well recently and I just made the decision," Dineen said. "Clem's work ethic and a few other factors went into it, previous records, so on and so forth. I felt that (Tuesday) was a good night for Clem and it obviously was. It was a good call."
After shaking off some rust and getting some assistance from the crossbar in the opening 20 minutes, Clemmensen was in the proverbial zone.
"I was rusty in the first, so I needed to make a couple of saves," he said. "I thought their best period was the first, so for me to make some saves, and (Jaromir) Jagr hit the cross bar, got me into the game.
"Once you find your comfort zone, it's much easier to play and then getting a two-goal lead allows you that margin for error. By the time the second period rolled around, I was in comfort zone, into the game, the rust was off and I had a lead. That helped."
Sean Bergenheim's second-period goal proved to be the difference as the streaking Panthers, who took a season-low 13 shots, won their fifth straight game to move five points ahead of the idle Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Southeast Division. The Flyers, now 3-1-1 in their last five games, fell four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"We definitely had some good tape on how not to play against them (after losing the first three games against this season against the Flyers), so we did a lot of scouting and we were more ready," Bergenheim said. "The last time we played here (a 5-0 loss on March 8), we just weren't ready for the battles. Against Philly, you have to battle."
For the third straight game, the Flyers spotted their opponent a 2-0 lead. On Saturday, Philadelphia battled back to get even with Boston before dropping a 3-2 shootout decision. On Sunday, Scott Hartnell capped the comeback when he scored with :00.9 remaining in overtime for a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Against the Panthers and Clemmensen, who made 12 saves in the third, it just wasn't going to happen.
The Panthers scored a 3-2 shootout decision over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday despite taking only 17 shots on goalie Ryan Miller. The club set a franchise record-low 11 shots on goal in 1999 against the Ottawa Senators.
Florida's 13 shots were the fewest by a Flyers' opponent since a 3-1 loss to Montreal on Dec. 7, 2009. It's the fewest by a Flyers' foe in a home game since Nov. 22, 2003, when Boston had 13 in a 3-2 Flyers' victory.
"It's all about the results, but at the end of the day, we're going to have to create more and get some more offensive zone time," Florida center Stephen Weiss told NHL.com. "We're playing with fire, absolutely. But we're not going to dwell on it either. Those are the ebbs-and-flows of this League and it's nice to win when you don't have you're 'A' stuff."
Eric Wellwood gave the hometown faithful something to cheer about 7:54 into the second when his shot from an impossible angle deflected off the skate of unsuspecting defenseman Ed Jovanovski in the slot and past Clemmensen to pull the Flyers within 2-1.
A little over a minute earlier, Bergenheim took advantage of a strange carom off the glass to give the Panthers a 2-0 edge. Brian Campbell's dump-in hit the glass and bounced directly in front of Ilya Bryzgalov and onto the stick of Bergenheim, who calmly lofted the puck over the goaltender's right shoulder for a power-play tally.
The Panthers opened the scoring 13:04 into the first when Weiss took a breakout pass near the Flyers' blue line, cut into the middle and fired a wrist shot from between the circles past Bryzgalov five seconds after a Philadelphia power play had expired.
The Panthers are having fun as they work to end a playoff drought that extends to 2000.
"We want to take it one game at a time, but certainly coming to the rink this time of the year, with all that we have on the line, has been fun," Weiss said. "It hasn't been that way in a lot of years here -- it was tough coming to the rink and there wasn't much to play for other than pride and your job. But when you're in this type of playoff race, that's what it's all about."
The visitors not only denied the Flyers on four power-play chances in the first, but also yielded no shots on a two-man disadvantage for 42 seconds when Jovanovski was whistled to the box for tripping Jagr at 16:04.
"Our penalty-kill in the first kept us in the game and gave us momentum," Bergenheim said. "If they scored one or two on the advantages in the first, it would have been tough to come back."
Hartnell had a great opportunity at 17:22 when he took a feed from Jagr in the slot, but he fired right into Clemmensen's chest.
"I felt like we played the way we wanted," Jagr said. "We jumped on them and created chances, played our cycle game. It was just one of those games where we couldn't score easy, and then all of a sudden you're down 2-0. You got to give them all the credit; they know how to win.
"They won five straight, they shut down the neutral zone and created turnovers."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale