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Panthers beat Flames 3-2 in shootout

by Alain Poupart /
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers were staring at another shootout loss until an unlikely hero emerged.

The Panthers were down to their last chance Friday night against Calgary, but defenseman Dmitry Kulikov scored on his first career shootout attempt. Stephen Weiss followed with another goal as the Panthers outscored Calgary 2-1 in the shootout to emerge with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory.

The Panthers had lost their last four shootouts since beating Tampa Bay in their home opener, and had scored only once in 14 attempts this season.

"It feels good," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's one of those things that just kind of builds up if it doesn't happen for you somewhere down the line. One goal in five shootouts just isn't going to cut it. That's a heck of a goal by Kuli under pressure in a big situation. He's got that pretty calm demeanor and that was certainly a big goal."

Kulikov's goal spoiled the NHL debut of Calgary goalie Leland Irving, who made 39 saves in regulation and overtime. But Irving couldn't stop Kulikov's wrist shot to the glove side.

Kulikov was asked whether he was nervous about getting the call in the shootout.

"I don't know, maybe a little bit," he said. "But I wanted it, too. You watch us losing in a shootout a few games in a row, I wanted it and it turned out good for me."

Alex Tanguay scored on Calgary's first shootout attempt before Jose Theodore kept the Panthers in the game by stopping Olli Jokinen and Rene Bourque. After Weiss slid a backhander through Irving's legs, Theodore made a blocker save on Lee Stempniak's wrist shot for the win — just the ninth by the Panthers in 41 all-time shootouts at the BankAtlantic Center.

Sean Bergenheim had both regulation goals for the Panthers, who beat Calgary at home for only the second time since the 1995-96 season (2-4-2-2). Linemates Shawn Matthias and Mikael Samuelsson had assists on both goals.

"I think we as a line already felt good the last two games we've played together," Bergenheim said. "We had some chemistry there. We had some chances in the games before, but today I think we really came through. It's important for this team to get secondary scoring. The first line has been so great, so all the lines have got to be able to chip in."

Theodore made 24 saves in regulation and overtime as the Panthers, who lead the Southeast Division, avoided their first four-game losing streak of the season. Their last 11 home games have been decided by one goal.

Theodore got the game to a shootout with a great pad save on defenseman Chris Butler's wide-open wrister from the left circle in OT.

Irving, who was called up to Calgary for the first time on Dec. 5, looked shaky in the first period and had problems controlling rebounds early. But he settled down and made his share of nice saves, in particular against center Tomas Kopecky.

"He definitely showed that he's ready to play in this League," Jokinen said. "He gave us confidence the way he played. We had two chances in the shootout to get the win for him. He deserved the two points. He played great, very calm, and it's a good feeling to play in front of him."

Irving, who has played 166 games in the AHL during the past three seasons, said the wait for his first NHL game was worth it.

"It was everything I thought it would be and more," Irving said. "Exciting atmosphere. To step on the ice with that caliber of players, a lot of talent out there, I enjoyed the challenge."

Jokinen, the former Panthers captain, had a goal and assist for the Flames, who have lost three in a row. Rene Bourque had the other goal.

Florida went 0-for-5 on the power play, making the Panthers 0-for-13  over their last three games.

Florida right wing Matt Bradley played in his 650th NHL game.

Bergenheim's second goal at 15:25 of the third tied the game at 2-2. He put home a rebound while falling to the ice after Irving made a nice pad save on a backhander by Matthias.

"Tonight you could see he had a lot of jump," Theodore said. "He was around the net. He scored two goals around the net. That's where you pay the price to get some goals. He played hard. His whole line was really good tonight."

Bourque gave Calgary a 2-1 lead at 3:55 of the third with a power-play goal. With Kris Versteeg in the penalty box for slashing, Bourque took a pass from Jokinen to the left of Theodore and beat him with a close-in shot that went between his body and left arm.

Jokinen also scored from a sharp angle at 10:00 of the first period on a rebound after Theodore stopped a shot by Curtis Glencross.

Bergenheim gave Florida a 1-0 lead 6:57 into the game off another rebound. After Kulikov's floater from the point hit Samuelsson, the puck went to Matthias, who put a backhand on net from the left of Irving. The rookie made the save, but the puck went to the front of the net, where Bergenheim banged it home.

Even though he ended up losing, Irving still made a good impression.

"He had a good game," Dineen said. "He's got a unique name, Leland. It sounded like a past president or something like that, I was teasing the guys. But he played a heck of a game. You like to see a guy get that first NHL game. That's always a special moment. Certainly as much as you enjoy seeing that, you sure like the two points."

For that, Dineen could thank Kulikov.

So does Kulikov expect to get the call the next time the Panthers are in a shootout?

"I don't know, we'll see," he said. "Hopefully we won't have to go to the shootouts."
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