SUNRISE, Florida (AP) — The Florida Panthers might be desperate
to end their lengthy playoff drought, but they certainly aren’t
making it easy on themselves.
Rich Peverley scored his second goal of the game in the third
period to break a tie and lift the Atlanta Thrashers to a 3-1
win over Florida on Friday night.
Florida missed a chance to tie the eighth-place New York Rangers
in points at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Panthers haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2000.
“This is one that we definitely thought we needed,” Panthers
defenseman Bryan McCabe said. “At home against one of the
bottom teams in our conference. I don’t think we played that
bad, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Todd White added a goal for the Thrashers with 1:03 left while
Panthers goalie Craig Anderson was trying to come off the ice
for an extra attacker. Anderson was close to the bench when
White stole the puck near center ice. Anderson dove toward the
net but couldn’t get there in time to stop White’s long shot.
“It was a frustrating night,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.
“Nothing seemed to be working and we didn’t feel that mojo on
the bench that we’ve had in the past, for whatever reason, I
don’t know what it was. But we’re still alive here in the last
week of the season. We’re two points out of a playoff spot and
a lot of hockey left.”
Colby Armstrong had two assists for Atlanta, which earned its
fourth straight win and fifth in six games.
Gregory Campbell scored the lone goal for Florida.
The Thrashers have already been eliminated from playoff
contention but have served as spoilers down the stretch.
Atlanta beat 10th-place Buffalo, 3-2, in overtime on Wednesday
night and knocked off the Rangers in a shootout on March 26.
“We don’t have the playoffs, so April 11 is our last game of the
season,” Peverley said. “I don’t want to stop playing hockey,
but we have to. We’re just trying to make the most of it. It’s
too bad because we have a pretty good team going forward.”
Johan Hedberg made 35 saves for the Thrashers.
“The whole team is playing really well in front of me, and
really that gives me confidence,” Hedberg said. “And the more
games I get to play, the more comfortable I feel.”
Anderson, making his fourth consecutive start in place of Tomas
Vokoun, stopped 29 shots. DeBoer said he was not sure who would
start Sunday night, when the Panthers close a three-game
homestand against Pittsburgh.
Peverley, who had gone 10 games without a goal, gave Atlanta a
2-1 lead with 8:54 left in the third period. His wrist shot
from close range went over Anderson’s left shoulder. Peverley
opened the scoring at 2:23 of the second with a wrist shot from
the slot that beat Anderson to the short side.
Campbell scored at 6:17 of the second to tie it, 1-1. Hedberg
stopped Campbell’s initial shot, but Campbell backhanded the
puck in from a sharp angle near the net for his first goal since
February 12. It snapped a 23-game drought.