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SPOILER ALERT: Panthers Help Coyotes by Stunning Stars 3-2

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

For weeks, the Panthers talked about wanting to spoil another team's run to the playoffs.

Sunday they may have just done so.

The Dallas Stars still hold the final wild card spot in the Western Conference although Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Panthers at BB&T Center is one they may really regret -- especially if they are sitting outside the Stanley Cup playoffs this time next week.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy,'' said Dallas' Jamie Benn, who made it 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game.

"We have to put this one behind us. It was a terrible outcome. We don't want to remember this one.''

On Sunday, Florida's biggest fans were the Phoenix Coyotes who remain a point back of the Stars.

Florida definitely helped that cause as the Panthers won both meetings with the Stars this season. Of four points Dallas could have against Florida, it took home none. Phoenix, meanwhile, got all four of its points against the Panthers.

"This time of year is fun if you're in the race,'' said Scottie Upshall, who scored Florida's first goal and became the team's leading scorer in the process.

"The games are hyped up, everyone is watching because there is a lot on the line. There's nothing better than playoff hockey. Right now is as good of a taste of it that will get. This is a learning curve for our younger players. Dallas was fighting for their lives.''

Everything was going Dallas' way after winning in Tampa on Saturday night.

The Stars had a 2-0 lead early in the second period and the Panthers -- who had lost five straight -- didn't seem all that interested in playing.

Coach Peter Horachek wasn't very happy as Dallas scored in the opening minute of the first and second periods and let his team know it during a timeout after an Upshall penalty 3:48 into the second.

"They were playing with a purpose and a resolve,'' Horachek said, "and I don't think we were. We were just playing and there wasn't enough emotion. I wanted them to care more about the end result.''

The Panthers most definitely responded as the plane shifted.

Florida began dictating play and finally gave its fans something to cheer about.

Upshall cut Dallas' lead in half by getting a piece of a big shot from Erik Gudbranson at the 8:20 mark of the second. In the final minute of the period, Brandon Pirri slid into the slot and one-timed a slick feed from Jimmy Hayes and put it past Kari Lehtonen to tie the score.

"We showed a lot of resiliency, battled back and dominated the second half of the game,'' said Pirri, who has six goals since joining the Panthers just before the March 5 trade deadline.

"We're trying to build off that the last three games.''

The two teams played even hockey in the third with the Stars understandably not wanting to make a mistake and give up the go-ahead goal.

Florida, with nothing to lose, seemed to play the same way.

"I wanted us to be smart and keep doing the right things,'' Horachek said. "This was a huge win for us emotionally. We responded after a lethargic first period.''

The Panthers did get that go-ahead goal, however, with 4:31 remaining as Sean Bergenheim scored off a pass from Colby Robak.

Bergenheim admitted he didn't know who the Panthers were helping in the playoff race initially, but asked and found out the answer.

"This is probably a big blow for Dallas,'' Bergenheim said. "For me personally, I don't care who is fighting for what. You have to play the best you can every game. Whetever happens to the other teams in the standings, I don't really care.''

THOMAS SITS

The Stars, as has been the case for the past nine games, went with Lehtonen in goal over Tim Thomas.

Thomas was Florida's goalie when the Panthers won their season-opener at Dallas in October, although much more than that has changed since.

The Panthers were missing 13 of the 20 players who were part of Florida's 4-2 win in Dallas. Florida also replaced most of its coaching staff since then.

Of Florida's four goals scored in Dallas, only one -- the initial goal by Scott Gomez -- came from a player still on the roster.

Roberto Luongo, who replaced Thomas as Florida's starting goalie, made 35 saves in the win.

 

Comments

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It's been so bad this season, I stopped paying attention after the Olympic break. But being from MN, I'm always happy to see the Dallas Stars lose.

So...tell me this doesn't make sense. Blockbuster trade for Ovechkin this summer. He'll never lead the Caps anywhere. New Owner down here with appearently deep pockets, desperately needing to generate some hockey buzz down here. Pretty lame UFA class this summer. A ton of prospects (Bjugstad / Gudbranson / 2015 #1 pick for OV would make it happen), but fans tired of hearing about the "bright future" the team has. OV puts @sses in seats, we have the cap space obviously, and it'll generate some excitement for next season.

Thoughts?

I would not want Ovechkin on this team. Having a chance to win the Stanley Cup is more important then getting a player like Ovechkin. We would have to give up too much and he would take up too much salary.

If we traded Bjugstad/Gudbranson and the 2015 #1 pick we will spend the next 10 years in the basement.

I would not trade Bjudstad, I would not trade Gudbranson and there is no way I would trade the 2015 #1 Pick for anyone in the league, those are the 3 best assets this organization has (the 2015 draft is considered one of the deepest).

You build a team in goal, then with your defensemen then center.

We need 4 or 5 new defensemen with Gudbranson being the anchor of this team.

I like our centers Bjugstad and Barkov leading the way.

Luongo in goal will hide a lot of the problems that this team still has.

Everyone else on the roster I would make available for the right price.

I would also use my buyouts on Jovo and Campbell

I give Jovo a lot of credit for coming back from his injuries, however, unless he is able to pick up speed during the off season (doubtful based on age and injuries) I think the pros (leadership and respect) do not outweigh the negatives (he is 2 steps too slow) to keep him.

Campbell appears to be going through the motions and we need to be more physical on the defensive side.

I would find a new head coach (last in power play and penalty kill, next to last in the standings, next to last in goal differential, no identity and players just standing around on the power play and on he penalty kill) We will need someone that is a teacher and will hold the players accountable for their play.

We are either going to finish 28 or 29 out of 30 teams after finishing 30 out of 30 the year before.

The house cleaning needs to start but please do not bring in a player to entertain (Ovechkin) bring in players that will lead this team to the Cup we no longer want to watch guys that treat this team as a country club and a place to get ready to retire.

Tallon must trade this yrs #1 pick in a package for a true goal scorer or top 2 dman like skinner/Eberle

As much as I would HATE to part ways with Bjugstad, if
you were to swap Gudbranson for Kulikov, I would seriously have to consider that trade, not necessarily
pull the trigger on it, put I would definitely have to
give it pause.

Chances are your getting whomever you like better in Reinhart or Bennett in this years draft, since I believe Ekblad will be the first overall, so you essentally swap out Bjugs for Bennett or Reninhart, and while losing the 1st round pick in a loaded draft
in 2015 would hurt, bringing Ovi into the mix almost assures you not finishing bottom five, IMO. Still, not
saying I would 100% do it, but I'd have to give it some serious thought.

Don't you start winning now Panthers! No point in doing so. Don't you give up number 2 spot for this year's draft! :)

Please no Ovi. Yes he's a great player but like the caps we'll never win the cup with him. He's not and never will be a team player. If he was there wouldn't be any talks of him possible getting traded. I'll take my chances without hom

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