SUNRISE, Fla. – Jason Garrison just kept firing, and eventually it paid off.
Garrison snapped a tie with 2:01 left in the third period and the Florida Panthers stopped a five-game home losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Garrison’s slapshot from the point beat Antti Niemi on the stick side after Florida had the puck in the San Jose zone for about a minute. It was Garrison’s third shot from the point on that shift.
“First shot got through, I think it hit him in the chest or something, the next one was tipped wide and the third one went in,” he said. “You just want to maintain pressure and you want to get to loose pucks and get pucks on net, especially when they’re out there for over a minute. You just want to funnel pucks to the net and crash to the net and that’s kind of what happened.”
San Jose coach Todd McLellan said fatigue played a major role in Garrison’s third goal of the season.
“The two wingers couldn’t breathe by the end (of that shift) and they made us pay for it,” McLellan said. “We needed one clear to get fresh guys on the ice and we would have been fine.”
Chris Higgins also scored in the third and assisted on Garrison’s goal, helping Florida pull out a close one for a change. It was the Panthers’ 15th one-goal game in their last 16, but only the sixth time (6-4-5) they came away victorious.
“It definitely feels good,” Higgins said. “We’ve played a lot of one-goal games and it seems like we’ve been on the losing half in a lot of them—at least it feels that way. But to come back, especially to score two big goals in the third definitely feels good. We definitely needed points.”
Mike Santorelli also scored and Marty Reasoner had two assists for the Panthers, who won for only the third time in their last 12 games (3-4-5). Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots to improve to 10-0-1 in his last 11 starts against San Jose.
Joe Pavelski and Kent Huskins scored for the Sharks, who have lost two in a row after going 9-0-1 in their previous 10 games. Pavelski assisted on Huskins’ goal, and Torrey Mitchell had two assists.
“We need one extra save and we need one extra shot to go in at the other end, and we didn’t get that,” McLellan said. “We could have shown a little more poise and composure, but it’s time to regroup and move on. We’re not getting this one back.”
Niemi, who had given up four goals in his previous four starts, made 19 saves for San Jose, which outshot Florida 30-22.
Higgins’ goal at 10:36 tied it at two after Pavelski put San Jose in front early in the period. Higgins grabbed a loose puck near the boards, skated toward the net and slipped a backhand past Niemi.
Pavelski backhanded a rebound from a sharp angle two minutes into the third to make it 2-1 Sharks.
Huskins opened the scoring 17:57 into the first period with his second goal of the season, both coming in his last three games. He took a feed from Pavelski from behind the net and beat Vokoun with a slapshot through traffic from the top of the faceoff circle.
“It’s just a couple of lucky shots, but it’s nice when it happens,” Huskins said. “I haven’t changed anything, really. The opportunities were just there. It’s just a good job by our forwards of working it down low and creating traffic in front and it just kind of opens things up.”
Santorelli tied it with 29 seconds left in the second. After Niemi stopped his wrist shot, Santorelli got the rebound and passed from behind the goal-line, and it went in off Niemi’s right skate.
“It was a good win for us,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “Hopefully, it builds some confidence. We’re a young team and we’re a little fragile at points. This hopefully will be a big boost for us to let us know that we can win games like this.”
NOTES: San Jose lost in regulation for only the second time in its last 10 games (6-2-2) against Florida. … Florida F Cory Stillman returned after missing two games because of an upper-body injury sustained in practice. … Florida D Dmitry Kulikov missed the game because of an ankle injury sustained Thursday night against Buffalo.