SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Nathan Horton has put a knee injury behind him in a big way for the Florida Panthers.
Horton had his first career three-goal game to help the Panthers snap a four-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Horton has seven goals in seven games after missing 10 games with the knee injury.
"It's a pretty nice feeling," Horton said. "I felt like there was no one on me. I just tried to get it to the net and it went in every time."
He has 14 goals in 22 games, matching his rookie total in 55 games in 2003-04.
"I think he's a great kid with a lot of talent," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "It's nice for him to have some reward for his hard work."
Gary Roberts added two goals for the Panthers, who won for only the fourth time in their last 22 games. Martin Gelinas and Juraj Kolnik also scored.
"It was nice to see some pucks go into the net," Roberts said. "We've struggled offensively. It was nice to get some goals tonight and a big win for our team."
Adam Hall, Scottie Upshall and Steve Sullivan scored for Nashville, which has lost three consecutive games in regulation for the first time all season.
The Panthers spoiled the first NHL start for Predators goalie Brian Finley, who was pressed into duty when scheduled starter Chris Mason pulled a groin in pregame warmups.
Finley, recalled from Hamilton of the AHL last Friday when No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun sprained his right knee, made 33 saves.
"I'm not using Brian Finley as an excuse why we lost," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Brian didn't have a great game, but a lot of guys didn't have a great game. Brian's not the excuse."
Finley struggled after stopping 10 of 11 shots in the first period.
"I don't know what happened there," Finley said. "The first half I played pretty well, but once they scored in the second period the floodgates opened and they just kept coming. Hopefully, if there's a next time I'm in there. I'll play better."
Roberto Luongo made stopped 30 shots for Florida.
Florida snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period with four straight goals, including Gelinas' power-play goal. It was the second power-play goal for the Panthers, who were 0-for-8 with the man advantage in their previous two games.
Horton gave Florida the lead for good at 9:45 of the second period when he intercepted a clearing attempt and beat Finley with a wrist shot high on the short side. Roberts scored his second goal of the game 47 seconds later on a wraparound.
Horton closed out the second-period scoring 58 seconds later when he skated in from the side and slid a low shot right inside the right post. He completed his hat trick at 11:21 of the third period with a wrist shot that gave Florida a 7-1 lead.
Notes: With only one healthy goalie, D Jamie Allison dressed as Finley's backup. ... Finley's only other NHL action came in relief of Vokoun on Jan. 1, 2003, against Colorado when he allowed three goals in 47 minutes. ... Florida was penalized twice in the first period for delay of game after players shot the puck into the stands while trying to clear the zone. ... Nashville D Danny Markov returned after missing seven games with a groin strain. ... Florida C Joe Nieuwendyk sat out the game because of back problems. He missed 15 games earlier this season because of his back.
|PPG - Adam Hall (6) ASST: Yanic Perreault (8), Martin Erat (7)|
1 - 0 NSH
|PPG - Gary Roberts (5) ASST: Jay Bouwmeester (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Nathan Horton (12) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 FLA
|Gary Roberts (6) ASST: Chris Gratton (6), Olli Jokinen (16)|
3 - 1 FLA
|PPG - Martin Gelinas (7) ASST: Olli Jokinen (17), Rostislav Olesz (4)|
4 - 1 FLA
|Nathan Horton (13) ASST: Jozef Stumpel (10), Rostislav Olesz (5)|
5 - 1 FLA
|Juraj Kolnik (7) ASST: Gregory Campbell (3), Sean Hill (8)|
6 - 1 FLA
|Nathan Horton (14) ASST: Stephen Weiss (9), Martin Gelinas (7)|
7 - 1 FLA
|Scottie Upshall (2) ASST: Darcy Hordichuk (2)|
7 - 2 FLA
|PPG - Steve Sullivan (12) ASST: Yanic Perreault (9), Dan Hamhuis (10)|
7 - 3 FLA
|Stephen Weiss Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Jay Bouwmeester Hooking|
|Nathan Horton Hooking|
|Chris Gratton Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Scottie Upshall Hi-sticking|
|Marek Zidlicky Hooking|
|Jozef Stumpel Holding|
|Mike Van Ryn Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Olli Jokinen Boarding|
|Jerred Smithson Interference|
|Jay Bouwmeester Hooking|
|Sean Hill Interference|
|Adam Hall Tripping|
|Eric Cairns Roughing|