Going into action Friday night, the Florida Panthers were already desperate for warm bodies, with injuries and transactions taking a toll. So losing Rostislav Olesz and Chris Higgins in the first period against the Atlanta Thrashers could have easily been too much for the Panthers to overcome.
However, Tomas Vokoun was brilliant, with 45 saves in the game, and five stops in six attempts during the shootout, and Florida beat the Thrashers, 2-1, in Atlanta. Steve Bernier, who was placed on waivers earlier this week, got the game winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout.
The Panthers went on top 7:13 into the first period, when Radek Dvorak hit Marty Reasoner with a backhand pass, which Reasoner took in the slot and snapped a shot passed Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec left the game after the first period with an injury, and was replaced by Chris Mason.
The Thrashers were able to get the game tied late in the second period on a goal by newly acquired Blake Wheeler. The ex-Bruin streaked down the left wing boards and drove hard to the net, throwing the puck between the post and Vokoun’s arm. It was a weak goal allowed by Vokoun, who left his position near the post, but it was the only blunder he made in the game.
Mike Santorelli scored in the first round of the shootout, but was answered by Wheeler in the second round. Vokoun and Mason traded saves until Bernier netted the winner.
Florida closed out a four game road trip the same way it started it – with a shootout victory over a division rival. The Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning last Saturday night. Florida returns home to play the New Jersey Devils on Sunday afternoon.