SUNRISE, Fla. – When the Florida Panthers fell behind by two goals in the first period to the top team in the NHL, it appeared they were on their way to yet another loss.
Instead, they scored three unanswered goals and Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots in the final two periods to help Florida snap a nine-game losing streak Tuesday night with a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
Brad Boyes scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third and Thomas made 32 saves overall. Scottie Upshall and Shawn Matthias also scored for the Panthers, who earned their first win under new coach Peter Horachek and ended Anaheim’s five-game winning streak.
Upshall also had an assist to help Florida rally.
The Panthers won for the first time since beating Minnesota 2-1 on Oct. 19. It was their first victory in three games under Horachek, who took over when Kevin Dineen was fired last Friday.
“I’m real, real proud of the way they responded,” Horachek said. “You don’t just come back from 2-0 against a team like that without a lot of effort and a lot of character.”
Thomas was especially strong late, stopping 13 shots in the final period.
“I didn’t know how confident to feel that we could come back against a really good team,” he said. “But in the second period, it started to come together for all of us, myself included. It was a real great effort after that.”
Hampus Lindholm and Andrew Cogliano scored for the Ducks (15-4-1), who lead the NHL with 31 points. Frederik Andersen made 22 saves but lost for the first time in seven career starts.
Florida took a 3-2 lead in the third on Boyes’ goal. Andersen blocked a shot by Upshall, but the puck bounced off his leg pad and Boyes backhanded in the rebound at 4:29.
“It was a resilient effort,” Upshall said. “We didn’t have a great start. That’s been an issue. But when you’ve got a guy like Timmy in net, you’re never out of a game.”
Trailing 2-0, the Panthers (4-11-4) scored two goals in 70 seconds during the second period to tie it.
Matthias backhanded the puck in from low in the right circle at 13:28 to make it 2-1. Upshall’s shot from the point went off the stick of Anaheim’s Mathieu Perreault and the shoulder pads of Lindholm before bouncing over Andersen at 14:38 to tie it.
“He shot it and it went off a body or shoulder or something and over my head,” Andersen said. “A tough one.”
The Ducks may well have overlooked the struggling Panthers, who earned their first home win after five straight losses.
“We come here to Florida and they haven’t had much success but we took it for granted we were going to beat them and it caught up with us in the second period,” Andersen said. “Pretty simple.”
Anaheim scored 40 seconds in. Cogliano took a pass from Daniel Winnik to the left of the net and wristed it past Thomas.
The Ducks went ahead 2-0 on Lindholm’s goal. His shot from the top of the right circle rifled past Thomas on the glove side at 14:26 of the first.
The lead didn’t hold up.
“You could see it happening,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “At 2-0, they were still close enough that if they got one … when a team is down, they start to feel it, they can be a tough team to beat, whether it’s fluky goals or whatever. We dug our own hole today.”
NOTES: Anaheim C Ryan Getzlaf was scratched for the second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. … Cogliano has a four-game goal streak, a career high. … RW Corey Perry appeared in his 594th game, tying Ruslan Salei for fourth on Anaheim’s franchise list. … Florida honoured Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne with a video tribute during a first-period timeout.