ESTERO, Fla. - Dustin Johner showed no signs of jet lag Saturday night in his first game for the Florida Everblades, helping his new team to a convincing 5-2 victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators at Germain Arena.
Johner picked up two assists less than 12 hours after arriving on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas and veteran forward Bogdan Rudenko scored twice in just his second game in a week after missing three of the last four.
Johner, a center who can also play right wing, was assigned to the Everblades by the NHL's Florida Panthers on Friday after being acquired in a trade from the Calgary Flames.
Florida (11-6-0) extended its home winning streak to eight games, which is one game shy of the franchise record and gave head coach Gerry Fleming his 200th career victory behind the bench with the weekend sweep of Gwinnett (8-5-2).
For the Gladiators, it was the first time they lost back-to-back games this season, and for head coach Jeff Pyle, it was the first time he was ejected from a game. Pyle received a game misconduct with 8:39 left in the third period after arguing an unsportsmanlike conduct for diving penalty on forward Jeff Campbell.
"I didn't think it was a dive,'' Pyle said. "I thought it was a real weak call and I didn't think I was too boisterous over there. I just said my opinion and he gave me two minutes and then he threw me out because I clapped.
"I've done worse, but I think that's more the league's problem than mine. Not that it would have mattered. I didn't think we would come back but I just thought it was a real weak call.''
As he left the ice, Pyle pointed to the referee and clapped his hands in mock applause, then as he reached the door exiting to the tunnel he stopped to acknowledge the announced crowd of 6,209 as the fans cheered, motioning with his hands to get louder.
This time the rout was on as Everblades rookie forward Jonathan Lehun kept his point scoring streak alive with a power-play goal at the 11:54 mark to increase the lead to 5-1. It was his third goal of the season off an assist from fellow rookie John Ronan and made it five straight games where he has at least one point.
Moments later, Gwinnett's Jeff Sharrow one-timed a shot past goalie Phil Osaer off assists from Scott Kelman and Lane Manson to make it a 5-2 game, but the Everblades were able to hold on for the win.
"I liked the way we played tonight," Pyle said. "We played a lot smarter tonight and I thought we had a better chance to win tonight. Last night we were lucky to be in it by coming back like we did after 3-0. We battled and we were shorthanded a little bit, but I was proud with the way we worked. It was two good hockey games.''
Guillaume Desbiens also scored for the Gladiators, who were without leading scorer Chris Durno for the second night in a row. Durno was loaned to the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals and played against Gwinnett's AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, on Friday night.
Goaltender Sean Fields faced 46 shots on the night, stopping 41 of them.
Gwinnett has another full week after making the long trip back from Florida. The Gladiators host Augusta on Tuesday, travel to Charlotte on Wednesday, host Trenton on Friday and is at Columbia next Saturday.