Thrashers keep Panthers from tying for 8th
The Florida Panthers might be desperate to end their lengthy playoff drought, but they certainly aren't making it easy on themselves.
Rich Peverley scored his second goal of the game in the third period to break a tie and lift the Atlanta Thrashers to a 3-1 win over Florida on Friday night.
Florida missed a chance to tie the eighth-place New York Rangers in points at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Panthers haven't qualified for the postseason since 2000.
"This is one that we definitely thought we needed," Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "At home against one of the bottom teams in our conference. I don't think we played that bad, we just couldn't put the puck in the net."
Todd White added a goal for the Thrashers with 1:03 left while Panthers goalie Craig Anderson was trying to come off the ice for an extra attacker. Anderson was close to the bench when White stole the puck near center ice. Anderson dove toward the net but couldn't get there in time to stop White's long shot.
"It was a frustrating night," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "Nothing seemed to be working and we didn't feel that mojo on the bench that we've had in the past, for whatever reason, I don't know what it was. But we're still alive here in the last week of the season. We're two points out of a playoff spot and a lot of hockey left."
Colby Armstrong had two assists for Atlanta, which earned its fourth straight win and fifth in six games.
Gregory Campbell scored the lone goal for Florida.
The Thrashers have already been eliminated from playoff contention but have served as spoilers down the stretch. Atlanta beat 10th-place Buffalo 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday night and knocked off the Rangers in a shootout on March 26.
"We don't have the playoffs, so April 11 is our last game of the season," Peverley said. "I don't want to stop playing hockey, but we have to. We're just trying to make the most of it. It's too bad because we have a pretty good team going forward."
Johan Hedberg made 35 saves for the Thrashers.
"The whole team is playing really well in front of me and really that gives me confidence," Hedberg said. "And the more games I get to play, the more comfortable I feel."
Anderson, making his fourth consecutive start in place of Tomas Vokoun, stopped 29 shots. DeBoer said he was not sure who would start Sunday night when the Panthers close a three-game homestand against Pittsburgh.
Peverley, who had gone 10 games without a goal, gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead with 8:54 left in the third period. His wrist shot from close range went over Anderson's left shoulder. Peverley opened the scoring at 2:23 of the second with a wrist shot from the slot that beat Anderson to the short side.
Campbell scored at 6:17 of the second to tie it 1-1. Hedberg stopped Campbell's initial shot, but Campbell backhanded the puck in from a sharp angle near the net for his first goal since Feb. 12. It snapped a 23-game drought.
Atlanta D Boris Valabik returned to the ice for the first time since March 17. He had missed six games with an upper body injury. ... Midway through the first period, a shot from David Booth bounced off Hedberg and Panthers rookie Michael Frolik batted the puck in with a high stick. The goal was disallowed. ... Atlanta LW Ilya Kovalchuk had his five-game goal streak end.