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Panthers top Wild in shootout

by Alain Poupart /
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goalie Tim Thomas told his Florida Panthers teammates before their game against the Minnesota Wild Saturday night that he was tired of losing. Then he went out and did something about it.

Thomas made 30 saves in regulation and overtime, including a brilliant sliding pad in the final seconds of the extra period, before stopping Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu in the shootout to lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory.

"He's brought in here to be a professional and come in and win some games for us and tonight he won a game for us," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He was very good."

Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes scored in the shootout, with Boyes ending the game in the bottom of the second round when he deked to his backhand and slid the puck between the legs of Wild goalie Josh Harding.

Dineen elected for the Panthers to go first in the shootout, in large part because of his confidence in Thomas, who improved to 31-27 in shootouts in his career.

"I haven't been in a shootout in a really long time," said Thomas, who sat out last season and signed with the Panthers last month. "I didn't really think about that until just now. Even in Boston, we had a lot of tight games and a lot of games that went to shootouts and stuff. It's something I'm relatively familiar with. I think the big thing tonight was our level, our work. We worked and we had second efforts. If we got the puck stripped from us, we worked hard to get it back. Just basically our level of work was ultimately what ended up leading us to the win."

It was Thomas' second start since he sustained a groin injury in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers Oct. 8. He made his return Thursday night against his former team, losing 3-2 against the Boston Bruins on a goal in the final minute.

"I'm feeling more comfortable there," Thomas said. "I'm feeling progressively better as of right now. I thought I felt really good in preseason and I even felt good through Dallas [in the season opener]. And then we had a couple of rough games there and then I got that little injury. But now I can feel my movement getting better and getting used to games. There's nothing like a game. You can do all the practices you want, but you need game time."

Huberdeau's goal in the first round of the shootout came on a pretty backhand-to-forehand deke. It made him 3-for-5 in shootouts since he made his NHL debut in January.

"I love it," Huberdeau said of the shootout. "I love it. I just like going one-on-one against the goalie. Sometimes it doesn't work. I kind of moved him on one side and he went the other way. I do this move really often and it seems to work."

Aleksander Barkov scored at 6:49 of the third period to tie the score at 1-1 and help the Panthers (3-6-0) snap their second three-game losing streak of the season.

This was the first Panthers game this season to go past regulation. Minnesota is 0-2 in shootouts and has lost its only overtime game.

Jonas Brodin scored a power-play goal in the second period for Minnesota and Harding made 21 saves. Harding came into the game with the best goals-against average in the NHL at 1.15.

The loss wrapped up a 1-2-1 road trip for the Wild, who will host Florida on Nov. 15 in St. Paul, Minn.

Minnesota scored five goals in those four road games.

"It [stinks]," Parise said of the Wild's offensive problems. "It's hard when you're going through it. I don't have any answers. I don't know. You just keep shooting, just know and hope that it's going to go in for us soon. Obviously, we've got to do something a little better. What that is we'll have to find out sooner than later because it's killing us right now."

Each team had one great scoring opportunity in overtime. Florida's Tomas Fleischmann fired a one-timer from close range that was gloved by Harding with 1:12 left. With the five-minute extra period winding down, Parise redirected Koivu's pass, but Thomas made a sliding pad save.

"We got caught on a long line change and there were some great opportunities by them down the stretch and Timmy stood tall when we needed him to," Dineen said. "That was a big moment and then you could just see a little bit of confidence when he's out there. That's why I elected to shoot second. He's going to go out there and make that first save and Jonny is going to go out and work his magic."

Barkov, the second player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored Florida's first power-play goal in four games. He was in the slot when he deflected Fleischmann's one-timer from the top of the right circle past Harding.

Brodin opened the scoring at 4:05 of the second period with Fleischmann in the penalty box for hooking.

Seconds after Thomas dove to his left to stop a rebound by Granlund, the puck slide back to the high slot when Brodin fired a one-timer. The shot went off the stick of Panthers forward Jesse Winchester and through the legs of Thomas.

The goal was the third of the season for Brodin, the most among NHL defensemen. It also was his ninth point of the season after he had 11 in 45 games as a rookie in 2012-13.

Dany Heatley assisted on Brodin's goal, only his second point in nine games this season. He is still looking for his first goal, matching the longest drought of his career.

"I'm disappointed for our guys," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "They're playing their tails off. We're playing great defensively, generating chances, but we're not winning games. It's in their heads a little bit. You can see it on the 5-on-3, you can see it in the shootout. Guys are playing their tails off and they're not getting rewarded. As a staff, we have to help them out and figure out what we can do."
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