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Flyers top Panthers 3-2 in shootout

by Alain Poupart
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Claude Giroux sure didn't look like a player in a scoring slump during a shootout at the BankAtlantic Center on Tuesday night.

After going without a goal for an 11th consecutive game, Giroux easily beat Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen with a backhand-to-forehand deke for the only goal of the shootout and give the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-2 victory.

Sergei Bobrovsky closed out the game when he made a glove save on Mike Santorelli after previously stopping Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss in the first two rounds.

"Bob did a good job of making the saves and Giroux is one of those players in the League who's got a great chance of scoring," said Flyers wing Scott Hartnell, who was added to the All-Star Game on Tuesday afternoon. "He made the goalie look a little foolish there in front of the net and got the goal in."

It was a rare shootout victory for the Flyers, who were 0-3 this season and had lost six straight dating back to last season. The Flyers were one of only two teams (along with Carolina) without a shootout victory this season.

"I just wanted to switch up a little bit, go fast and slow down and try different things," Giroux said. "It's good when you get a chance to help the team."

Bobrovsky, who made 23 saves in regulation and overtime, had given up two goals in three shootout attempts this season. But Giroux said his goalie's strong showing Tuesday night didn't surprise him.

"In practice, nobody can score on him, so we have a lot of confidence in him in the shootout," Giroux said. "I get mad at him in practice when I can't score on him. We have a little side bet in warmups and can't score on him. It's fun to get that first shootout win."

Braydon Schenn and Jakub Voracek scored in regulation for the Flyers, who remained three points behind the New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division heading into the All-Star break. The Rangers, who beat Winnipeg 3-0 on Tuesday, have a game in hand.

The Panthers loss in front of 17,739, combined with Washington's victory over Boston, dropped Florida to second place in the Southeast Division. Both teams have 55 points, but Washington has four more victories.

The Panthers missed a chance to head into the All-Star break leading their division for only the second time in franchise history. The  Panthers led the Southeast Division at the All-Star break in 1999-2000, the last time Florida made the playoffs.

The Panthers currently stand seventh in the Eastern Conference, a major improvement from last season when they were last in the Southeast and eight points out of the last playoff spot at the All-Star break.

"We've earned that right to be where we're at," Clemmensen said. "That puts us in a good position coming out of the break for that big playoff push. We expect to make the playoffs, without a doubt."

The Panthers actually would be in better shape if they did better in overtime and shootouts. The loss to Philadelphia dropped the Panthers to 4-11, the most overtime/shootout losses in the League.

"We've got to figure out a better formula in the shootout," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We're just losing too many points up for grabs and not ending up in our back pocket."

Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Panthers, who have lost five of six and 11 of 15 (4-6-5). Weiss assisted on both goals. Clemmensen, rewarded with another start after making 41 saves in Saturday's 4-3 shootout victory at Winnipeg, stopped 35 shots.

Both teams came into the game shorthanded because of injuries. Philadelphia was without three of its top-nine forwards and played with eight rookies for the second consecutive game, while the Panthers were missing starting defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Dmitry Kulikov, who underwent knee surgery on Monday and will be out 6-8 weeks.

"It hasn't been easy games," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We've got a lot of injuries and missing a lot of key guys, but these young guys go out there and do their job and play hard. They want to stay in the lineup."

In addition to Giroux, who had 5 assists in the previous two games, the Panthers were able to cool down Hartnell, who had scored 5 goals in the weekend games against New Jersey and Boston.

The Flyers have taken both meetings this season, with two games in Philadelphia remaining. The Flyers beat the Panthers 3-2 at the BankAtlantic Center on Nov. 13.

With the loss, the Panthers dropped to 15-1-6 this season when scoring first.

Samuelsson gave Florida that 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 2:49 of the first period. After Bobrovsky made two great pad saves on Weiss, Samuelsson beat him with a slap shot low to the stick side from the top of the right circle.

Schenn tied it with a strange goal that also came on a power play. Clemmensen stopped Schenn's wrist shot from the top of the right circle, but the puck bounced high in the air and over Clemmensen's right shoulder and then crossed the red line just before the net was dislodged. The goal was allowed after being reviewed.

"It was the first power play and we wanted to get things on net," Schenn said. "That's what I did and we got a lucky break there and it's nice when it works like that. It just went straight up and straight down. I was just hoping I'd get a break there and it would go in."

Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at 17:59 when he skated down the middle of the ice, flipped a pass to the right to Tim Sestito, and redirected Sestito's return feed between Clemmensen's left leg and the post.

Fleischmann tied it at 2-2 at 15:40 of the second period after Versteeg came in on a breakaway, but ended up past the net after trying a backhanded deke. Versteeg passed in front to Fleischmann, who spun around and put home a backhand with Bobrovsky out of the net.

It was Fleischmann's first goal in 10 games.

"It was just a pass off the wall and taking it to the net," Versteeg said. "Flash made a great play to put it in the net. It's nice to see Flash get going. We need him and hopefully he just keeps rolling."
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