RW Nathan Horton Tallies Shootout Winner for Cats
SUNRISE, FL - With veteran free-agent acquisitions such as C Joe Nieuwendyk, D Sean Hill and LW Gary Roberts sitting out the Panthers first preseason game, it was a chance for Florida's youth to shine. After skating in a scoreless five minute overtime, RW Nathan Horton (Florida's first choice, third overall in 2003 NHL Entry Draft) notched the game-winner in a shootout to give the Cats the 5-4 victory, in front of 18,541 fans at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
Panthers' first round draft picks LW Rostislav Olesz, RW Anthony Stewart and C Stephen Weiss all also recorded goals, as the Cats fought back from two goal deficit. In his first NHL preseason game, Olesz tied the game at four when he one-timed a centering pass from Horton, just three minutes into the third period.
Trailing 2-0 entering the second, Carolina reeled off four unanswered goals from four different players to take a 4-2 lead. F Andrew Hutchinson (PP), F Niklas Wallin, F Eric Staal (PP) and F Mike Zigomanis all scored during a period that saw the Panthers get whistled for seven penalties.
The first period was also penalty-laden affair with a combined 18 minutes of penalties for both teams. But while the Hurricanes couldn't muster much offense on their power plays, Florida relished the opportunity converting on a pair of special team goals. Weiss put the Cats on the scoreboard with a shorthanded two-on-one when he fired a slap shot past Carolina G Martin Gerber at 11:27. Then with just eight seconds remaining in the period Stewart put Florida up by two with a with a snapshot from the slot off a feed from C Chris Gratton.
The Canes out shot the Cats 30-24 for the game. Florida netminder Jean-Marc Pelletier earned the win, while Gerber suffered the loss for Carolina. Florida converted on two power play opportunities, while Carolina went 2-16 with the man advantage. The Panthers play their second preseason contests on Thursday, Sept. 22 when they visit the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Florida Panthers drop the puck for the 2005-06 on Wednesday, Oct. 5 against the Atlanta Thrashers. Other home games include Oct. 7 (Tampa Bay), Oct. 13 (Boston) and Oct. 15 (Buffalo Sabres).