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Horton Shines As Cats Pick Up a Point in Shootout vs. Tampa

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Goldie's post-game recap:

A thriller again between the Pantehrs and Tampa Bay. The Lightning win in a shootout 3-2 here in Tampa. The Cats picked up 3 of 4 points in the home and home series but should have had all 4 points. Tampa goalie Marc Denis was spectacular as the the Panthers controlled play the 1st 2 periods. The Cats had a 2-1 lead going to the 3rd but it could have been more. Nathan Horton remains red hot as he scored both Panthers goals. Horton has 6 in his last 7 games. Tampa had 6 power plays over the game's final 29 minutes and scored the tying goal on the pp in the 3rd. Both teams had chances to win it late in regulation and in overtime. Both Denis and Ed Belfour slammed the door and it was onto the shootout. Tampa has St. Louis, Richards, Lecavalier and they usually win the shootoiuts. Tonight was no different. Tampa scored twice, Nathan Horton scored for the Cats in the skill competition. The Panthers played with a playoff type intensity and still have playoff hopes. With the point gained the Cats are 8 points out of 8th in the East. They will play 4 of the next 5 at home starting with Thursday's game against the Penguins. The Panthers continue to play exciting hockey and any thoughts of this team giving up with 21 games to go is out the window. They are getting strong play from Horton, Weiss and Bouwmeester as the trio continue to emerge as solid NHL players. Should be fun Thursday when Sid the Kid hits town!

Goldie's 2nd intermission report:

As good as the first period was, the 2nd was better! The Panthers got another goal from Nathan Horton, his 2nd of the night and 3rd in the last 2 games. Marc Denis made an unbelievable save on Olli Jokinen to keep it at a 2-1 Panther lead. Only Denis has prevented the Cats from leading 4 or 5-1! The Cats got into major penalty trouble late in the period. Chris Gratton took a 2 minute minor and was then called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Panthers killed the 1st 3 minutes of the power play but Gregory Campbell took a delay of game penalty. The Cats again killed off nearly a full minute of 5 on 3 for Tampa. In all that time the Lightning only had 1 shot on goal. Ed Belfour has come up big on 2 great chances by Vinny Lacavalier. We go to the 3rd...a thriller here in Tampa, with the Panthers leading 2-1.

Goldie's 1st intermission report:

Great 1st period as the Panthers try to sweep the home and home from Tampa. The energy and intensity was evident. After Tampa took a 1-0 lead Nathan Horton answered to tie it. For Horton it's his 20th goal and 5th in the last 7 games. Horton had another chance on a breakaway from the Tampa blue line but he was unable to get a clean shot off with the puck on edge. Horton played strong period overall along with his linemates Stephen Weiss and Martin Gelinas. The Panthers moved the puck well and played an aggressive 20 minutes. They will start the 2nd period with about a minute left on a power play. 1-1 after the 1st.

Goldie's pregame blog:

It's showtime tonight in Tampa. If the back end of the Panthers vs. Lightining home and home is anything like the front end, we are in for quite a game.

The Cats led 2-0 Saturday at home then trailed by a goal twice. Ville Peltonen tied the game on the power play in the 3rd and then...Hallelujah! The 1st overtime win of the season thanks to Stephen Weiss, Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton all going strong to the net. Horton got the goal, the 1st overtime game winner of his career, but the smarts and work of Weiss and Bouwmeester cannot be overlooked. It has to be a great sight for Jacques Martin and all Panther fans to see the 3 players who were in on that game winner. They are the core of the Panthers future and success for them is key for development and confidence. Weiss and Horton each played more than 17 minutes and were a plus 1. They combined for 2 goals and 3 assists.

The Cats have now won 4 of 5 at home and have a dozen home games still left. Tonight though, is a road game. Tampa Bay is good, not great, in their barn. The home team will be revved up tonight after losing to the Panthers, again, in South Florida 5-4. The Panthers must play a smart, patient game and get a big game from Ed Belfour. The Eagle now has 16 wins and will start his 12th straight game. Backing up Belfour for the game will be Craig Anderson. Alex Auld has a minor knee injury so Anderson has been called up from AHL Rochester and will wear a Panther jersey for the first time. Giving the team a boost will be Jozef Stumpel's return to the fold after missing 5 games with a shoulder injury. Stumpel is the team's special teams point leader and to win tonight the Cats will surely have to come up big on the power play. They were 2-5 on the pp Saturday.

With the trading deadline a week away the 3 games this week are big in determining how active Florida will be at the deadline. 3 wins, which will be tough with Tampa, Pittsburgh and Boston on the schedule, could have the Panthers thinking playoffs. We'll see which way things go but the Cats are in a good position as they have players with expiring contracts like Gary Roberts, Todd Bertuzzi and Martin Gelinas, that teams have major interest in trading for.

The Penguins are 14-1-2 in their last 17 games and Thursday night they come to South Florida for the final time this season. Saturday the Bruins are in town as the Panthers play game 5 of their 9 straight Saturday night home games. The Cats are 3-1 in the first part of those Saturdays at the BankAtlantic Center.

Game time tonight is 7:30...QAM coverage starts at 7.

Game Preview

The Florida Panthers will look to sweep a home and home series vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Nathan Horton's goal 29 seconds into overtime gave Florida a 5-4 victory at the BankAtlantic Center on Saturday night.

"We hadn't won one (in overtime) in so long, it was nice to finally win," Horton said. "I got a loose puck there at the end and I was able to shoot it. It was a big win for us."

Despite winning three of four, the Panthers are 13th in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind the final playoff spot. Four of Florida's final 22 games will be against Tampa Bay.

"We're fighting for a playoff spot and have to climb back into it, and they're one of the teams we have to catch," center Stephen Weiss said. "We've got four more games against them and have to just come and compete for 60 minutes. When we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win."

The Panthers have to improve their play away from home if they are to have any chance at the postseason. They are tied with Calgary for the fewest road wins in the NHL with seven.

The Lightning are 2-1-1 against the Panthers this season, posting a 4-1 victory on Oct. 14 in their only home game. Tampa Bay is 7-1-1 with two ties in its last 11 home games versus Florida.
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