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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.''

NEWS, NOTES

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.

 

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