SUNRISE, Fla. – Keeping things simple paid off for Ville Peltonen and the Florida Panthers.
After Atlanta rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3, Peltonen scored twice in Florida’s five-goal third-period outburst that led to an 8-4 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.
“After the second period, we decided we have to go back to our game and getting the puck through the neutral zone,” Peltonen said. “We just owned them again in the third.”
Michael Frolik, Jay Bouwmeester, Radek Dvorak, Cory Stillman, David Booth and Nathan Horton also scored for the Panthers, who are 4-0-1 in their past five games. Dvorak also had two assists, and Gregory Campbell had three assists.
The line of Campbell, Dvorak and Peltonen combined for eight points.
“They continue to drive the engine for our team,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s a momentum-changing line, one, because they’re so reliable defensively. But now they’re creating offence and they’re getting more confidence and they’re chipping in goals every night for us.”
The Panthers set a season high with the eight goals. They have scored 27 goals in their past five games.
Colby Armstrong, Todd White, Erik Christensen and Ilya Kovalchuk scored for Atlanta, which has lost three of four. White and Vyacheslav Kozlov each had two assists.
Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves for Florida.
Atlanta’s Kari Lehtonen stopped 20 of 27 shots before being pulled after Peltonen’s second goal at 12:01 of the third.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Lehtonen, who was coming off a 4-0 shutout of New Jersey on Thursday night.
“I don’t think there’s anything that stands out,” Lehtonen said. “But when there’s so many goals, that’s pretty bad. We have to forget about this and go forward. It feels bad after the great game we had in New Jersey.”
Atlanta had a goal disallowed in the first period. Defenceman Nathan Oystrick’s slap shot got past Vokoun, but Thrashers forward Chris Thornburn was penalized for goalie interference.
“If you watch the replay, (the referee) didn’t have his arm up on the call, then we shoot it, then he waves it off and calls a penalty,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “So I don’t know. Was it not a penalty if we don’t score? I don’t understand that.”
Peltonen broke a 3-3 tie at 1:34 of the third period, six seconds after the end of a Panthers power play. His one-timer off a feed from Dvorak beat Lehtonen to the glove side.
Peltonen’s second goal, which made it 7-3, was a carbon copy. The only difference was this time he scored off a pass from Campbell.
Peltonen has four goals in his past five games after a 14-game drought.
“You can go into a slump and you have to start focusing on the things that you can control,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough. It’s a good thing riding the tide when it’s going great.”
Stillman followed Peltonen’s first goal by scoring at 2:42 of the third period to make it 5-3. He beat Lehtonen low to the glove side with a wrist shot from the off wing.
Booth made it 6-3 after some pretty three-way passing involving Nathan Horton and Richard Zednik. Booth carried the puck into the zone on a 3-on-2 break and dropped it back to Horton. Horton passed to Zednik to the right of the net, and Zednik sent the puck across the crease to Booth, who tipped it home.
“They call that tic-tac-toe,” Booth said. “That was a very nice play by Zednik and by Horton. Great vision, and I had the easiest part on that play.”
Kovalchuk got one back for Atlanta with 6:35 remaining, but Horton answered to make it 8-4 with 5:04 left.
“That’s just what happens when you get chances,” Booth said. “Pucks are going to go in and we just played well and it was fun to watch.”
Florida took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission on Frolik’s goal on a penalty shot and Dvorak’s short-handed goal.
Frolik was awarded the penalty shot when he was hooked from behind by defenseman Niclas Havelid. His shot off a deke sneaked between Lehtonen’s blocker and pad.
Dvorak scored with 11 seconds left in the period with a long slap shot. He shot with the puck rolling on its edge and his floater beat Lehtonen over his left shoulder.
Atlanta tied the game with two second-period goals.
White scored on a power play at 3:53 when he took a pass at the side of the net and jammed home the puck between Vokoun’s legs.
Christensen tied it at 16:26 when he came in alone on Vokoun and put on the brakes while Vokoun went down. Christensen then put home a short wrister into the open net.
“For two periods we played pretty well,” White said. “The third period we just fell apart. We made way too many mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Notes: The Atlanta Thrashers acquired centre Rich Peverley on waivers from Nashville. Peverley, a second-year player, had two goals and seven assists in 27 games with the Predators this season. … Florida’s previous high for goals came in Sunday’s 6-1 victory at Pittsburgh. … C Bryan Little, Atlanta’s leading goal scorer, missed his third consecutive game because of bruised ribs. … Booth’s goal extended his career-high point streak to eight games. He has six goals and six assists during the streak. Kovalchuk’s goal gave him 27 in 41 career games against Florida.