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Panthers enter December on hot streak after strong November @NHLdotcom

MIAMI (AP) -November hasn't always been kind to the Florida Panthers.

In 2006, Florida watched its playoff hopes fizzle after picking up just three November wins. But even that was an improvement from 2005, when the Panthers won just one game that month.

The Panthers won seven games this November. They are a game below .500, within four points of Carolina in the Southeast Division. Boston beat Florida on Thursday, 4-3.

"It's been a lot better than the last few I've been a part of. So that's definitely a positive," center Stephen Weiss said. "Hopefully, we're peaking a lot earlier than we have in the past. This has generally been a tough month for us where we haven't gotten a lot of wins and really had to battle back in the second half of the season. If we can finish real strong here this month, it'll give us a lot of confidence."

Thursday's loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Florida, which included a 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Rangers before a sellout home crowd Friday and another shootout win Wednesday, 2-1 over the Washington Capitals. With new goalie Tomas Vokoun, the Panthers are 3-0 in shootouts this season.

"I think shootouts are unpredictable," Vokoun said. "I've been on losing sides and winning sides. I'm glad we won a couple and definitely we need those points, but I would rather win the game in regulation than have to get the shootout."

The recent hot streak is not good enough for Panthers' captain Olli Jokinen, whose team sputtered early again this season. Florida lost seven games in October, including its first three.

"I don't think there's a reason to be satisfied with how we played overall in a month," Jokinen said. "I think our expectations should be to go win every game. I think we're definitely on the right direction. Last week was a good week for us."

Wednesday's shootout ended 4-3 and at 11 rounds was the longest in Panthers history. Jokinen, Nathan Horton, Kamil Kreps and Weiss scored Florida's shootout goals. Vokoun stopped Washington defenseman Brian Pothier's attempt to end the game.

"There's no relief. You look at the standings, how close it is," Florida coach and general manager Jacques Martin said. "It just shows the parity in this league. From one day to the other, the changes. Some teams that were struggling ... a lot of teams have turned things around."

Jokinen gave part of the credit for Florida's November success to its younger players, including David Booth, who has six goals this month.

"With young players, there's going to be a lot of up and downs before they find their place in the league," Jokinen said. "Lately, they've been doing their job. That's the expectations that we have for them."

Florida fell six points short of the playoffs last season, finishing at 35-31-16, in part because of their lackluster fall play and 16 overtime and shootout losses.

"We're playing the same way, in the same type of games last year, tight games that came down to a big play here and there that maybe last year we were on the other side of," Weiss said. "This year, we're getting that bounce or we're getting someone to make a big play for us to keep us in the game or give us a lead. We're finding a way to win some games."

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