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Thrashed in Atlanta: Florida loses to Truck Stop Thrashers

Bus ATLANTA – The Thrashers had plenty of built in excuses for a poor performance on Saturday night.

Thanks to the monster snow storm that hit the east coast, the team was stuck in Washington  D.C. after Friday’s game.

The Thrashers spent almost six hours on a bus to Virginia before finally flying to Atlanta, arriving at their rink less than two hours before playing the Panthers.

Florida coach Pete DeBoer knew the Thrashers might use their predicament as a rallying point.

Sometimes, DeBoer must hate being right.

After falling behind by two goals in the opening period, the Thrashers came from behind to beat the Panthers 4-2 in front of a raucous crowd at Philips Arena. Saturday’s game was postponed almost an hour to allow the Thrashers more time to get to the arena.

“We’ll be making a mistake if we think this gives us any sort of advantage,’’ DeBoer said before the game. “I’ve seen teams in this situation play like they have nothing to lose.’’

After the game, DeBoer said it really didn’t matter that the Thrashers were put in a bind because at least that team was healthy. The Panthers were playing without leading scorers Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton because of injuries, and the team continues to struggle offensively.

Florida held a 2-0 lead after Radek Dvorak broke his 15 game goal-less streak by beating Johan Hedberg twice within an 11 minute span. But the Thrashers came charging in the second and dominated the period, tying it up on a pair of goals. Atlanta then added two more in the final 4:26.

“We don’t have Weiss or Horton in the lineup and they have a good team with a full lineup,’’ DeBoer said angrily. “I thought we played much better than we did at home [Friday]. But you have to give them some credit. I don’t think it was anything we were overly poor at. They worked hard and we couldn’t keep up.

“It has nothing to do with travel. They have a young team with good legs. They skated. Yeah, they out-skated us in the second and third periods. But we’re short guys. Our effort was there. We didn’t finish some of the opportunities we had.’’

The Panthers goal woes continued as the team now has 12 goals in their past 10 games. Florida got a power play goal in Friday’s lackluster loss to the Flames, but went 0-for-7 on the power play Saturday.

Not long after the Panthers failed to convert on their final power play chance of the night, Niclas Bergfors -- playing in his first home game since coming over in the Ilya Kovalchuk blockbuster deal on Thursday -- netted the game winner by scoring with 4:26 left.

Evander Kane was awarded an empty net goal after fellow rookie Dmitry Kulikov threw his stick in the way of the puck on a breakaway.

The Panthers have lost three straight, scoring a total of three goals in those games.

“You can’t make excuses anymore,’’ David Booth said. “You have to be ready to play every night, especially against a team with some travel problems. You have to finish a team off when up by two goals. We have to start doing that. I’ve been saying that, it seems, ever since I’ve been here.’’

TRADE WINDS?

General manager Randy Sexton said he has had numerous talks with other GMs around the league regarding possible deals but the Panthers weren’t actively working on a trade.

“Are we happy where we are? No,’’ Sexton said. “But we need to get on track. But, I’m going to try and make some moves between now and the deadline if we can. It takes two to tango. If we can find a dance partner, we’ll try to make ourselves better.’’

(*) Sexton added that there was little talk about postponing Saturday’s game once it became apparent the Thrashers would be able to fly home in the late afternoon.

The Thrashers spent much of the day traveling – either by bus to Richmond, Va., or in their air charter. The team’s equipment arrived at the arena around 6:10 p.m.

 (*) Center Stephen Weiss missed his second game since Jan. 18 with what DeBoer called a nagging injury. Weiss got hit hard in the first period of Friday’s game against the Flames but continued on. Weiss is on the trip and could return Tuesday against the Hurricanes in Raleigh.

Nick Tarnasky replaced Weiss in the lineup but didn’t see much time. He took a 10 minute misconduct in the second period.

(*) Defenseman Keaton Ellerby was recalled from Florida’s AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., to fill in for Bryan Allen. Allen is expected to return on Tuesday.

(*) Saturday was Atlanta’s final home game until after the Olympic break. The Thrashers next home game? March 2 against the Panthers.

 

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