BY GEORGE RICHARDS
ATLANTA – When the Thrashers picked up their second goal just 3:43 into Tuesday night's game, it looked like the Panthers had not only picked up where they left off but had actually regressed.
The Panthers quickly turned things around with a pair of goals from Stephen Weiss and David Booth but couldn't overcome Atlanta's two-goal outburst in the second and dropped their seventh straight with a 4-2 loss at Philips Arena.
Florida, with an uncertain roster going into Wednesday's 3 p.m. trading deadline, didn't curl up and die despite Atlanta's quick 2-0 lead. But Florida's scoring woes continue to haunt as the team continued its franchise record mark for scoring futility as Tuesday marked the 14th straight game Florida was held to two goals or less.
“I don't know what to say really,'' said Booth. “It's frustrating. The guys want to win in here. It's tough losing these games. You look back throughout the year and so many of these slipped away. Other teams have that drive to win, know how to win. We have to get to that. Down, tied or up, we have to win these games.''
Depending on what general manager Randy Sexton can pull off before the deadline, the Panthers could look much different come Wednesday when the Flyers visit Sunrise.
If the white flag hasn't been raised on the 2009-10 season, it's creeping up the pole. The Panthers have now lost eight of nine and their playoff hopes continue to dim.
Florida limped into the 17 day Olympic break and looked rusty in the early goings Tuesday. The Thrashers, who beat Florida 4-2 in their final home game before the break on Feb. 6, scored two goals off the first three shots goalie Scott Clemmensen faced. The first came just seconds after Michael Frolik had a great opportunity stolen away by Johan Hedberg.
The Panthers got on the board just over two minutes after Colby Armstrong made it 2-0 when Weiss scored on a power play – just Florida's fifth goal in 53 such chances.
With 9:15 remaining in the period, Booth snared his third goal of the season after charging in on Hedberg and blasting a shot off a Bryan McCabe feed.
Florida had ample opportunity to pick up its third goal of the opening period but failed to do so and it was costly. Late in the period, Booth drew a hooking penalty on Ron Hainsey with 1:56 left. Hainsey joined teammate Marty Reasoner in the bin, giving the Panthers a two-man advantage for a whopping 1:32.
Only the Panthers were able to sustain little in the Atlanta zone and came away with nothing.
“That's a huge momentum shift,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We came back from 2-0 and got the power play and could have come out of the first with the lead. We didn't. That's the game.''
After Hainsey's penalty ended early in the period, Florida continued to come hard at Hedberg and the Thrashers – with Atlanta committing its fifth penalty of the game early in the second. But Florida once again failed to convert, allowing Atlanta to retake the lead 7:33 into the second with Cory Stillman serving a delay of game call.
Florida went 1-of-8 on the power play and failed to score with two extra skaters in the final 90 minutes as Clemmensen came out of the net.
The Thrashers scored their fourth goal of the night with 5:13 left in the second when Pavel Kubina knocked a puck past Clemmensen to make it 4-2. Clemmensen, making his first start since Dec. 27, stopped 35 of the 39 shots faced in relief of starter Tomas Vokoun.
“Two goals isn't going to do it,'' DeBoer said. “We need to learn how to bury some of our chances.''