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LONG ROAD TRIP ENDS IN LONG SHOOTOUT: Flames Top Panthers 4-3 after Six Rounds of Shootout

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CALGARY -- Peter Horachek wasn't happy with Florida's performance in Edmonton on Thursday and wasn't smiling much during Friday's game against the Flames at the Saddledome.

The Panthers bounced back from a two-goal deficit in the third period yet still lost 4-3 in a shootout to a Calgary team that had lost eight of its first 10 games this month.

Florida ends its five game road trip with consecutive losses to the two worst teams in the Western Conference as Florida was outscored in Alberta 7-4. The Panthers went 2-2-1 on the trip, winning in Colorado and Vancouver before losing Thursday.

"We played in all tough buildings,'' Horachek said. "We came out [Friday] and had good opportunity 5-on-5, had some puck possession.''

Friday's game was a contrast of experience in net as Calgary's Reto Berra was playing in only his ninth NHL game in his first professional season in North America.

Florida's Tim Thomas, however, was playing in his 442nd NHL game and making his eighth straight start.

The Panthers gave Horachek the opening he hoped for, saying before the game that someone "needs to respond" after Thursday's poor effort in Edmonton.

Florida, playing a boring game on the end of this five-game road trip, took a 1-0 lead as defenseman Tom Gilbert scored his first of the season after winding up after Nick Bjugstad won a face off deep in the Calgary zone.

Gilbert's goal came on Florida's fourth shot on goal of the game -- at 15:14 of the period. The Panthers ended up outshooting the Flames 6-3 in an opening period that wasn't one for the ages.

"I thought our first period was awesome, we were simple and didn't give them much,'' Gilbert said. "To get the first goal is comforting. We've been behind a lot this year.''

The Flames, playing in front of a mostly disinterested crowd, woke up in the second by putting a pair of shots past Thomas within a three minute span to take a 2-1 lead into the second break.

Calgary then made it 3-1 5:40 into the third when Blair Jones scored off a nice feed from Lance Bouma.

Florida bounced right back with newly acquired Jimmy Hayes making Berra pay for coming 40 feet out of his cage to play a puck as Shawn Matthias was chasing it down.

Hayes picked up the puck and blew past Berra, working around two defenders and scoring into an empty net to make it 3-2.

"I tried to read off the goalie and he put it right on my tape,'' said Hayes, who came to Florida last week in the Kris Versteeg deal. "Matthias showed some good speed getting down there.''

The Panthers kept working at Berra with Marcel Goc putting one past the 26-year-old Swiss goalie with 5:59 to set things even again.

The shootout went six rounds, with Thomas losing his first shootout of the season when Sean Monahan scored Calgary's third goal of the session. Florida countered with Hayes but he was stopped. The Panthers got shootout goals from Brad Boyes and Tomas Fleischmann.

Thomas, 39, has started eight straight games as he has been the only goalie Horachek has used since replacing Kevin Dineen. Thomas' run started in Horachek's first game behind the Florida bench Nov. 9 in Ottawa.

Three of those eight games have come on the second night of a back-to-back set. Thomas made 31 saves in Thursday's loss at Edmonton; he had 21 through 65 minutes on Friday.

"We're managing his energy, his focus,'' Horachek said. "Things may change if you're 4-0 on the road trip and you're going on back-to-back days. But his job is to be our best option to win and he's doing that.''

-- Florida lost forwards Tomas Kopecky and Jesse Winchester to what Horachek called minor injuries during Thursday's game. Both were out Friday.

Defenseman Mike Weaver remained out with what he had described as the flu. Weaver has missed four straight games.

"He's not 100 percent,'' Horachek said.

Sean Bergenheim and Scott Gomez returned to the lineup in place of Kopecky and Winchester.

-- The Panthers stayed in Calgary following Friday's game and planned to charter back to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning.

 

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