The Florida Panthers nearly wasted Steven Reinprecht‘s natural hat trick before Rostislav Olesz came to the rescue.
Reinprecht scored three times in a 5:11 span of the first period, and Olesz converted in the second round of the shootout to give the Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
“That was a wild one,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “There was wide open hockey out there, way too loose for my liking. If we had walked out of here with nothing, it would have been pretty hard to swallow.”
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Dallas rallied to send the game to overtime and the shootout, where Olesz was the only successful shooter when his attempt caromed off the goal post and behind Alex Auld. A video review confirmed that the puck crossed the goal line.
Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen denied Brad Richards in the third round to secure the victory for the Panthers, 0-3-1 in their previous four games.
“With how things have been going for us, it was an important two points,” DeBoer said.
Reinprecht got the scoring started on a rebound at 10:38 of the first period, and fired another rebound past Auld at 15:20. Reinprecht completed his fifth career hat trick 29 seconds later when he swept a loose puck by Auld.
Reinprecht admitted his big night was simply a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“I don’t think that will happen again,” Reinprecht said. “I kept going to the net and the puck kept popping out to me. They were tough to miss.”
Olesz and Jordan Leopold also scored in regulation for the Panthers. Nathan Horton assisted on all three of Reinprecht’s goals.
Brian Sutherby, Stephane Robidas, Mike Ribeiro, James Neal and Fabian Brunnstrom scored for the Stars in coach Marc Crawford’s 1,000th NHL game.
Crawford is the 15th coach in league history to reach 1,000 games. Scotty Bowman is the leader with 2,141 games over 30 seasons for five teams. Crawford is tied for 14th with the late Roger Neilson.
The milestone game didn’t end the way Crawford wanted on a sloppy night for the Dallas defense.
“We showed a lot of character and persistence the way we fought back from a 3-0 deficit, but there were a lot of Florida Panthers who didn’t get contested the way they needed to be,” Crawford said. “To be a good team, we’ve got to be a lot tighter.”
Auld, getting the start with Marty Turco sidelined because of flu-like symptoms, stopped 24 shots. Clemmensen made 32 saves.
Sutherby struck from low in the left circle at 17:51 of the first period, and Robidas’ one-timer on a power play with 18 seconds left in the period made it 3-2.
“Even though we played pretty bad in the first, it was a 3-2 game and we were still in it,” Robidas said. “But if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.”
Leopold’s first goal of the season extended Florida’s advantage to 4-2 at 2:38 of the second period. Ribeiro’s goal at 3:33 pulled Dallas within one, and Neal tied it at 4 from the slot after a nifty individual move at 11:17.
Olesz skated in alone and beat Auld on the backhand at 1:42 of the final period, but Brunnstrom drew Dallas even 1:11 later with his first goal of the season.
NOTES: Stars C Steve Ott finished serving a two-game suspension for a low hit on St. Louis’ Carlo Colaiacovo on Saturday night. … Neal played in his 100th NHL game. … LW David Booth (concussion) and RW Radek Dvorak (lower body) are out for Florida. … Dallas called up Matt Climie from the Texas Stars of the AHL to back up Auld.