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Vokoun taken to hospital in Panthers' loss

by Brian Compton /
Nothing went right for the Florida Panthers on Monday night -- not even their method of taking out frustration.

Maxim Afinogenov broke a 3-3 tie with just 5.5 seconds left in the third period -- roughly two hours after Tomas Vokoun left the ice on a stretcher as the Atlanta Thrashers skated away with a 4-3 victory against the Panthers at Philips Arena.

Florida has lost five straight.

Vokoun was injured in the opening period after Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Thrashers a 2-1 lead at 8:54. Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard then tried to break his stick over the goal post, but instead struck Vokoun in the head. He was on the ice for about 10 minutes before eventually being replaced by Scott Clemmensen.

Vokoun had an ear laceration and was alert when taken by ambulance to a local hospital, a Panthers spokesman said. Ballard declined to speak with the media.

''He's probably pretty bummed. Nobody feels worse than Keith,'' Florida GM Randy Sexton said. ''There was no internal ear damage, just a laceration. They stitched him up, took a CAT scan and there's no additional injuries.''

The teams exchanged a pair of goals in the first period. Mark Popovic gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead 3:36 into the game, but Stephen Weiss evened things up when he beat Johan Hedberg (25 saves) just 45 seconds later. Kovalchuk restored Atlanta's lead with his 15th goal of the season as he batted his own rebound past Vokoun at 8:54 before Rostislav Olesz scored on the power play at 15:47 after a long break in the action while medical staff attended to Vokoun.

''I've seen a couple of things happen like that. You have to contain your emotions and be careful out there,'' Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

Chris Thorburn gave Atlanta its third lead of the night with his third goal of the season at 5:28 of the second period, but the Panthers cashed in on a turnover by Popovic when Michael Frolik tied the game again at 17:37.

And just when it seemed that both teams would come away with at least one point, Afinogenov took a pass from Nik Antropov and ripped a shot from 15 feet out past Clemmensen in the final seconds of regulation to give Atlanta the victory.

It was Afinogenov's 11th goal of the season. He also has 14 assists in 23 games.

''He's been a great surprise for us. It's like he's got a new lease on life being here and we're glad to have him,'' Anderson said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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