DETROIT -- The last time the Panthers beat the Red Wings in Detroit, Radek Dvorak was a still just a fresh-faced kid from the Czech Republic who helped the Panthers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals the season before as a rookie.
Dvorak potted the game-winner on Dec. 1, 1996 as Florida topped the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
He was there Friday night when the Panthers did it again.
This time, Bryan McCabe did the honors as Florida beat Detroit 2-1 in overtime.
The Panthers, who sandbagged it much of the night to secure the one point, have now won seven of 10 after starting the season with just two wins in a 10 game span.
Friday, as the clock ran down to end regulation, a few smiles and congratulatory slaps on the back were seen on the Panthers bench.
Florida hadn't won anything. The game against the Red Wings was tied and going to overtime.
Just like the Panthers wanted.
The real celebration came 40 seconds into overtime as McCabe fired a shot off Stanley Cup champion goalie Chris Osgood to lift the Panthers to 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena. The win was rare indeed; Florida had only won here once before – on Dec. 1, 1996.
''We were down 1-0 going into the third in Detroit, one of the best teams in the league. We thought we were in a great spot. We stuck with the program and grinded it out. That's Cats hockey. We're starting to create an identity here.''
The Panthers didn't do much throughout Friday's game, leaving the heavy lifting to backup goalie Scott Clemmensen. The last time Clemmensen was in net, he gave up seven goals – including five in the third period – in a lopsided loss at Washington.
Friday, Clemmensen looked like the guy Florida wanted during free agency and signed to a three-year deal. Clemmensen was tough and was poised, swatting away 22 shots before Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk broke the ice nearly 38 minutes into the game.
Before then, the fans at the Joe might have wanted a little caffeine to stay awake as the Panthers looked to just keep things close. The strategy worked.
''Great win, we really battled hard tonight,'' said Clemmensen, who stopped 39 shots – including all 14 in the pivotal third. Florida took both shots in overtime as they picked up the play substantially. ''I give my teammates credit. They battled in the third and got the equalizer. Then McCabe gets the overtime goal. I wasn't off to the start here I wanted to be. I take full responsibility for that. I want to be part of the solution here.''
The Panthers tied the score 8:13 into the third when Stephen Weiss took a beautiful feed from Nathan Horton along the goal cage. Horton saw Weiss standing all alone and the crisp pass seemed to surprise Weiss as he almost whiffed. Weiss buried the second try as Osgood was slow getting back in position.
Florida didn't do much of anything after that but try and keep the Red Wings away from Clemmensen. After the light celebration at the end of regulation, the Panthers came strong in overtime with Weiss getting off a good shot that bounded back. Six seconds later, McCabe sent a screamer from the top of the right circle on Florida's 20th shot of the night.
''They are a great hockey team; their record and Stanley Cups speak for themselves,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. ''Anytime you can come in here and get one or two points, it's an accomplishment. We needed our goaltender to be our best player tonight and he was.''
And now, the Panthers are off to New York. With wins in Buffalo and Detroit, the Cats are trying to pull all six points out of this crucial roadtrip.
Anyone else see that one coming?
-- It took forwards Cory Stillman and Steven Reinprecht a little while to get going. Kind of like the Panthers themselves.
The one negative out of Florida's 2-1 overtime victory over the Red Wings Friday was that Stillman – who had goals in six of eight games coming in – was lost with a left knee injury. Stillman was driven into the boards midway through the second period and coach Pete DeBoer says he's out for some time.
The Panthers will call up a forward from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., before Saturday's game in New York against the Rangers.
In Florida's run of seven wins in 10 games, Reinprecht and Stillman accounted for 20 points (none Friday) as the Panthers have gotten back into contention after a rough start. Florida started with two wins in its first 10 with DeBoer calling out both players at times for their play.
''It's a lot of fun playing with Stiller,'' said Reinprecht. ''He's been around a while and is a good offensive player. It took us a little while to get started.''
Stillman started off very slowly and didn't get his first goal until Oct. 31 in St. Louis – Florida's 12th game of the season. His goal against Buffalo on Wednesday was a beauty, as he and Stillman raced up the ice with only a Buffalo defender and goalie Ryan Miller in the way.
Reinprecht carried the puck up the ice, Stillman on his right. When Stillman slowed a bit to create a passing lane, Reinprecht easily picked up on it and slid it across the ice. Stillman teed off on the pass and buried what looked like an easy goal.
The two looked like they had been playing together for years and not weeks. The Panthers just hope its not months before they are back together.