ATLANTA – In six NHL seasons, Steve Bernier found himself in a strange place.
The No. 16 overall pick of the 2003 entry draft was waived by Florida on Thursday, unclaimed by another team and re-signed with the Panthers the next day.
“I’d never been in that situation before,” Bernier said. “I felt a little out of it. You’re not sure what’s going to happen.”
Marty Reasoner scored his 12th goal, Bernier added the deciding goal in a shootout and the Florida Panthers stopped a two-game slide with a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.
Atlanta is winless in its last five games and in 16 of its last 19.
After Reasoner made it 1-0 in the first, Blake Wheeler scored his 12th goal, and first with the Thrashers since getting traded from Boston last week, to force a 1-1 tie in the second.
The Panthers began the night in 12th place, one spot behind fading Atlanta in the Eastern Conference, and were winless in nine of 12.
Bernier, whose career has included stops with San Jose, Buffalo and Vancouver, was the sixth Panthers skater to face goaltender Chris Mason in the shootout.
“I was going to do something else, but I noticed he went to his left, so I decided to go to the right,” Bernier said. “It was my first shootout goal (in four career attempts).”
Reasoner scored after moving to the bottom of the left circle and taking Radek Dvorak’s wraparound pass to beat goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to the stick side 7:13 into the first.
Playing his first home game since being acquired in a trade last week with Boston, Wheeler skated past defenceman Joe Callahan through the left side of the Florida zone to move the puck from his backhand to forehand and beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun’s glove side.
Injuries affected both teams.
The Panthers lost two forwards in the first period, and neither Chris Higgins (hand) nor Rostislav Olesz (knee) returned.
“I thought we were refocused and came with a real good work ethic tonight,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. “We faced a lot of adversity, but we had a lot of contributions.”
Atlanta defenceman Mark Stuart, who was acquired with Wheeler in the deal that sent Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik to Boston, appeared to lock skates on a clear hit of Olesz 2:04 into the first. Olesz lay briefly in front of the benches before teammates Mike Santorelli and Bernier helped him off the ice.
Mason began the second period in goal for Atlanta after Pavelec left with an undisclosed injury.
Before Florida lost its last two games by a combined 10-2 score at Ottawa and the New York Islanders, 17 of the Panthers’ previous 19 games were decided by one goal.
“You know scoring chances are going to be limited,” Florida centre Stephen Weiss said. “You just try to get the puck to the net and get some bounces. We stuck with our plan. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win.”
Mike Santorelli scored Florida’s first goal in the shootout.
Wheeler was the only one of Atlanta’s skaters to score in the shootout.
The Panthers improved to 1-5-1 in their last seven road games.
Vokoun stopped 45 of 46 shots to improve to 20-21-4.
Pavelec made six saves on seven attempts. Mason stopped all 25 shots he faced.
“It’s frustrating,” Mason said. “We feel we are playing well, but we are not getting the job done and the points we need. That is the most important thing.”
Notes: Wheeler took a game-high seven shots on goal. … Florida improved to 20-36-1 in the series, 9-18-6 at Philips Arena.