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4 posts from November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013

LATE NIGHT WITH THE PANTHERS: Tim Thomas Comes Up Huge in 3-2 Shootout Win, Florida's First in Vancouver Since 1994

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- Tim Thomas reminded his teammates that, yes, he had won a game at Vancouver's Rogers Arena before Tuesday's game.

During the game, Thomas made sure everyone wearing the Panthers sweater had as well.

By making 30 total saves, Thomas led Florida to its first win in Vancouver in three decades with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Canucks.

The win was just Florida's second in Vancouver and first since the Canucks moved to what is now known as Rogers Arena in 1995.

Florida last beat the Canucks here during its expansion season of 1993-94.

"After the game, we said 'now we've all won here','' Thomas said with a grin.

"Winning here wasn't a factor. We won two of three coming in to this, we've been putting quality efforts together against good teams. To be able to keep it going .-.-. this was the result we needed no matter who it was against.''

On Tuesday, it was Thomas who was a difference-maker again for the Panthers as they have won three of the past four games and two straight for the first time.

Thomas is 3-3 since coming back from injury as he started the first game with new coach Peter Horachek behind the bench on Nov. 9 and hasn't stopped since. Thomas made 27 saves during the first 65 minutes before stopped all three Vancouver offerings in the shootout.

The Canucks have lost five straight.

"They are a desperate team like ourselves,'' said Thomas, 2-0 in shootouts this season with five saves on five shots. "They've struggled and wanted desperately to break that. We were desperate to keep what we've started going.''

Thomas came out strong in a building he obviously has great memories of. The last time he was here, he led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup win in four decades in Game 7 of the 2011 Cup Finals.

There wasn't as much on the line this time although the Panthers seem to be finding their way.

Former Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who still lives in South Florida during the offseason, was stellar as well.

Luongo, who played for the Panthers from 2000-06, made 34 saves -- including a number in the final minute of regulation that kept the game moving. Florida came hard at Luongo in the opening period as he made 13 saves off 14 shots.

"I thought they had a great first period. They came out hard and had a lot of chances,'' Luongo said. "Once we tied the game, they kept firing pucks at the net. Give them credit. Obviously a shootout can go either way.''

The Panthers trailed 2-1 in the third after Vancouver's Jannik Hansen whipped a shot off a Tomas Fleischmann turnover past Thomas early on. But Florida tied it up with 11:26 left when Shawn Matthias fired a mid-range shot past Luongo.

On Vancouver's first goal, both Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson failed to clear the puck from behind the Florida net as Chris Higgins tied the score at 1 in the second.

The Panthers, who had only scored the initial goal four times before Saturday, made it 1-0 after Brad Boyes followed up Barkov's power play shot and put it past Roberto Luongo.

Barkov's shot clipped the goal cage and the puck bounded back toward Boyes -- who collected his eight goal in 21 games. He had 10 for the Islanders last year.

Jonathan Huberdeau led off the shootout with a goal -- and that's all Thomas needed. Luongo stopped Barkov with Florida's second shot although the Panthers wouldn't need a third.

"It's the end result,'' Horachek said. "We bent in the second period but didn't break. In the third, we reacted after they scored with a goal. That was huge. The guys are reacting the right way.''


As expected, Vancouver's David Booth wasn't in the lineup for what would have been his first game against his former team.

Booth was traded from the Panthers to the Canucks early in the 2011-12 season but was hurt and didn't play when the two teams met up that year.

On Tuesday, Booth was simply a healthy scratch. The 28-year-old has just two goals over the course of the past two seasons and one in 13 games in this one.

Florida didn't have Scott Gomez, Sean Bergenheim or Mike Weaver in its lineup.


ROGER'S ARENA: Panthers to Honor Legendary Roger Neilson

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- Roger Neilson was Florida's first coach, leading the Panthers through their first two seasons of existance before being fired and replaced by Doug MacLean.

On Tuesday, the Panthers announced they would name the press box at BB&T Center in Neilson's honor. The unveiling of the 'Roger Neilson Memorial Press Box' will take place Monday.

Neilson died after a battle with cancer on June 21, 2003.

"Roger brought me in and probably had the most impact on me as a coach,'' said television analyst Billy Lindsay, who played for Neilson during those first two seasons in Florida.

"He was someone I truly loved. He was a great coach and a great man. I think it's awesome that the team is honoring him this way. This is a great way to always remember him. I think he would have appreciated it.''


TIMMY'S BACK IN VANCOUVER: Panthers Trying to Break Losing Streak

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- Panthers coach Peter Horachek opened Tuesday's morning skate by reminding his team that the Florida Panthers had never won a game in this building.

"I have,'' goalie Tim Thomas responded, drawing laughs from Horachek and his teammates.

Thomas, obviously, knows how it feels to win at Rogers Arena as he beat the Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals here. Before Monday's workout, Thomas hadn't been back.

Florida came into Tuesday's game with no wins in 11 games (five ties) at Vancouver's GM Place/Rogers Arena. The Panthers lone Vancouver win came in their first visit during their expansion year of 1993-94 and came at the Canucks' former home, the Pacific Coliseum.

-- Mike Weaver was declared out of Tuesday's game after missing the morning skate because of his illness. Weaver also missed Saturday's game at Colorado. Scott Gomez (groin) and Sean Bergenheim were also out of the lineup.

BOOTH OUT AGAINST PANTHERS: Goals, Playing Time Harder to Find in Vancouver

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- David Booth didn't want to leave the Panthers, didn't ask to be traded as some others have.

When word came down from Dale Tallon on Oct. 22, 2011 that Booth was headed to Vancouver, Booth tearfully scrawled wrote a message to his teammates on the white board and reluctantly trudged out of the arena.

The Panthers would play the Islanders later that night without No. 10 in the lineup.

"It was tough to say goodbye,'' Booth said then.

One of the more popular players in Florida during his six-plus seasons with the Panthers, Booth has struggled lately. Booth scored 16 goals in his 56 games in the season following the trade but only two in 25 games since.

Now in his third year with the Canucks, Booth has been plagued by various injuries (knee, ankle, groin). Booth has scored one goal in 13 games this season and spent time in the minors.

That's a far cry from Booth's time in Florida when he scored 31 goals in 2008-09 and a total of 87 in 309 games with the Panthers.

"He's gone through a number of injuries,'' Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "You have to fight through it mentally and let yourself go. I don't think he's done that. He's a really good player. It's still there. We have to help him find it to help us be a better team.''

When the Panthers visit Booth's Canucks late Tuesday night, Booth won't be on the ice after being deemed a healthy scratch by Tortorella.

"I obviously would have liked to play, this is a game that was circled,'' said Booth, who was hurt when Vancouver visited Sunrise in 2012.

On Tuesday morning, Booth was basically if he was worth his high price tag. The Panthers gave Booth a six-year deal worth $25.5 million -- with the Canucks paying the brunt of it. Booth will make $4.5 million this season and $4.75 next season.

Vancouver sent Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm to Florida in exchange for Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick.

"No one me to a higher expectation than myself,'' he said, barely looking up. "You know, 'to whom much is given, much is required.' That's an old Biblical principal that has always stuck with me. I know I've been given much and much is expected from me. I'm going to work as hard as I can.''

The Canucks are a team loaded with former Panthers. While Roberto Luongo still lives in South Florida and would have liked to return to the Panthers, Jason Garrison grew up in the Vancouver area and cashed in during free agency by leaving the Panthers for the Canucks.

Booth, while saying he is happy in Vancouver, admits he misses the low-pressure lifestyle playing hockey in South Florida afforded him. Booth was happy to see the Panthers make it to the playoffs after he left, saying their long-suffering fans deserved to enjoy that.

If the opportunity came around for Booth to return to the Panthers, the thought is he would take it.

"Trust me, I look back with nothing but positives about Florida,'' Booth said. "There are things I miss, especially the ability to just go out and play. Here, it's hockey and that's all it is. In Florida you play and that suited my style. Maybe it doesn't for others. There are things I love about here, there's no place I'd rather be. But things work out. It's fine here. I enjoy it. But it's part of the job.''