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Panthers 5, Thrashers 2 @NHLdotcom

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Panthers won a game they had to have and extended the Thrashers' slump.

Chris Gratton scored twice, Jon Sim had the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Panthers beat Atlanta 5-2 Friday night, handing the Thrashers their seventh straight loss.

"Mentally, I think this game was huge," Gratton said. "We fought hard to get back. We're two teams in the same position, trying to climb into the playoff race. It was a hard night on penalty killing. There was no flow to the game whatsoever."

Joe Nieuwendyk and Nathan Horton also scored for Florida, and Roberto Luongo made 37 saves. Trailing 2-1, the Panthers scored four straight goals.

Marc Savard and Vyacheslav Kozlov scored for Atlanta, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots. The Thrashers went 1-for-11 on the power play, while Florida scored twice on the power play.

"It all comes down to our big guys," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "Right now, we need more from certain guys. When things are going bad every mistake ends up in your net."

Florida took its first lead at 5:17 of the third period. During a power play, Sim brought the puck from behind the net and bounced it in off Lehtonen to make the score 3-2. It was Sim's first goal in five games with the Panthers.

"We got lucky and I finally found the back of the net," said Sim, who worked the puck behind the net while Lehtonen tried to cope with traffic in front.

"I was just sliding around, swimming and hoping I was going to hit it and it went under my pad," Lehtonen said.

Gratton added a short-handed, empty-net goal at 18:45 and Horton had one at 19:54.

The Thrashers took a 2-1 lead on Kozlov's five-on-three, power-play goal at 15:54 of the second. Ilya Kovalchuk took a shot from the point that was blocked by Luongo, but Kozlov slid the rebound behind the goalie.

The Panthers tied it 2-all at 17:18 after Nieuwendyk poked the rebound of a shot by Horton in from the side of the crease after stripping the puck from Savard.

"Turnovers. We've been turning the puck over a lot and I'm as guilty as anybody," Savard said. "We've got to be a team here and get it together."

Florida tied the score at 1 on a power-play goal at 13:47 of the second. Gratton took a slap shot from the right circle that got past Lehtonen on the stick side.

Atlanta took a 1-0 lead with just 3 seconds left in the first period. Andy Sutton's shot from the left circle was blocked by Luongo, but he fell backward and Savard put the rebound into the open net.

Notes: Florida's Gregory Campbell returned to the ice after missing four games because of a concussion. ... Sim came to the Panthers from Philadelphia on Jan. 23. ... There were 22 penalties in the game, 13 on Florida and nine for Atlanta. ... Sutton smashed his stick to pieces on his own goal post after Horton scored.

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