SUNRISE, Fla. – Rich Peverley gave the Atlanta Thrashers the lead. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec made it stand up—with some help from a controversial non-call and apparent replay blunder.
Peverley scored twice and Pavelec made 33 saves in the Thrashers’ 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.
“He had a great third period,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said about Pavelec. “In the first period he was good and in the third period he was really good. They had a lot of point shots where he had to find it through a crowd. I thought he was really sharp.”
The Panthers thought they had tied it with 6:22 left on Bryan McCabe’s slapshot. Television replays showed the puck lying clearly across the goal line for at least a few seconds, but the play wasn’t reviewed.
“It looks like a goal to me,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “I’m baffled as to why the referees, to make certain, wouldn’t have gone to the penalty box and asked that they take a look at it or Toronto would have buzzed and taken a second look at it.
“They look at everything else. I got no explanation from them why, other than they said if it was close, Toronto would have buzzed them and they never got a buzz from Toronto.”
Peverley’s first goal came on a 5-on-3 power play and gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead with 31 seconds left in the first. Peverley skated around defenceman Mike Weaver and put in his own rebound with a backhander.
“Peverley did a great job,” Ramsay said. “He took the hit to draw the penalty, then took the puck to the net. That was a real good effort from him. Take the penalty, then score. Give him four marks for that one.”
Peverley made it 3-1 when he beat Tomas Vokoun on a 2-on-1 rush with a long wrist shot over the goalie’s right shoulder.
Later in the second period, Peverley had a great opportunity for his first career hat trick when he came in on a breakaway. But Scott Clemmensen, on in relief of Vokoun, made a glove save on Peverley’s wrist shot.
“He had some chances,” Ramsay said. “On the breakaway, he had a good opportunity against a cold goalie. Their goalie made some really good saves.”
Niclas Bergfors also scored to help Atlanta win for only the third time in its last eight games (3-4-1). Andrew Ladd had two assists.
Chris Higgins had a goal and an assist and Stephen Weiss added a goal for Florida. The Panthers lost in regulation for only the second time in nine games (5-2-2).
“We’ve been playing some good hockey recently,” Higgins said. “We didn’t play well for most of this game, but we’ve just got to put in a full 60 minutes again.
“Took a couple of minutes off, let them take the lead and couldn’t recover.”
Vokoun came into the game third in the NHL in save percentage, but was pulled after Peverley’s second goal at 6:27 of the second period. Vokoun gave up three goals on 15 shots.
Atlanta failed to score on a five-minute power play early in the third period after Shawn Matthias was called for boarding. Florida actually had the best scoring chance during those five minutes when Marty Reasoner came in alone on Pavelec. He tried to slip a backhander between Pavelec’s legs, but the goalie made a stick save.
“The guy shoots five-hole all day long, so I expected it to the five-hole,” Pavelec said. “He had a great move, but I think he was a little bit tired because they played the PK.”
Higgins scored at 12:39 of the third on a breakaway after taking a long pass from Weaver. It was his fifth goal in his last six games.
Bergfors opened the scoring at 12:52 thanks to a lucky bounce. Coming in on a 2-on-1, he fired a wrist shot that bounced off the post and bounced in off the back of Vokoun’s shoulder.
Weiss tied it at 14:16 with his fifth goal in seven games. He beat Pavelec with a wrist shot from the slot.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of managing the game,” Peverley said. “Obviously, that second (Florida) goal we’d like to have back.
“We had a pretty good second and keeping the puck in their zone and doing a good job of capitalizing on our chances.”
NOTES: Higgins’ goal was the 100th of his career. … Peverley has six career two-goal game. The last came earlier this season against Montreal. … The Panthers were playing the second of five consecutive games against Southeast Division opponents. … Panthers F Evgeny Dadonov sat out because of an ankle injury he sustained Monday night at Carolina.