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Big Game, Big Win: Cats within 4 Points Of Playoffs

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Horton Scores Game Winner vs. Thrashers

Two consecutive second period goals gave the Florida Panthers a huge 3-2 home win over the rival Atlanta Thrashers in front of an emotional crowd of 17,927 fans at the BankAtlantic Center.

The win propels the Panthers to 12th place in the Eastern Conference and just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 13 games left in the regular season.

Florida hits the road for a game at eighth place Carolina before returning home for a Thursday match-up against the Eastern Conference leading Buffalo Sabres. The Cats will play seven of their next 10 games in the friendly confines of the BankAtlantic Center where they are 20-10-4 this season.

Young Cats forward Nathan Horton got the game winner with his 25th of the year at 7:38 of the second period. The goal was assisted by Martin Gelinas and Bryan Allen. The forward trio of Horton-Gelinas and Stephen Weiss has been on fire as of late with 15 goals and 31 points in their last 10 games.

Horton's goal came less than two minutes after Cats Captain Olli Jokinen tied the game with a one-timer from the right wing. Young forward David Booth and defenseman Steve Montador assisted on the goal.

Panthers All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester added some insurance in the third period, scoring his career high 10th of the year with an assist from Jokinen.

With the win the Cats are 12-5-3 in their last 20 games and 6-0-1 at home over their last seven. Florida goalie Ed Belfour has started in all 20 of those games and made 27 saves on the night, outdueling stud Thrashers netminder Kari Lehtonen.

Notes:

- With a goal and an assist Olli Jokinen recorded his 21st muliple point game of the season. Jokinen also has 45 points at home which ranks him in the Top 10 in the NHL.

- With an assist defenseman Bryan Allen has a career high with 17 assists and 19 points

- Jay Bouwmeester's 10th goal is a career high and the first time the All-Star has reached double digits in goals scored in a single season.

- Panthers goalie Ed Belfour has started 20 straight games with a record of 12-5-3 over that span. He has 22 wins on the season, matching his total from all of last year.

- The Panthers have won five consecutive Saturday home games and are 6-1-0 in their last seven Saturday home games.

- The Panthers are 7-0-0 when regular radio play-by-play announcer Steve "Goldie" Goldstein moves over to the TV booth.
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