SUNRISE, Fla. -- On a night in which veteran defenseman and team captain Ed Jovanovski
played for the first time in over nine months, the Florida Panthers blew a two-goal third-period lead and then beat the Nashville Predators
5-4 in a shootout Saturday at the BB&T Center.
Right winger Tomas Kopecky
scored the decisive goal in the shootout as the Panthers won, 2-1.
Leading 4-3 with 4:01 left in the third period, the Panthers killed off a two-minute penalty to left winger Tomas Fleischmann. But after the kill, the Predators pulled their goaltender and got a tying score from center Paul Gaustad with just 48 seconds left in regulation.
Jovanovski, 37, who had missed 83 of Florida's past 89 games, is believed to be the first player of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues to come back from hip-resurfacing surgery.
Rookie Predators goalie Marek Mazanec, playing in place of two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne (hip injury), fell to 7-9-2. Mazanec is one of four goalies used by the Predators this season.
With 13:18 left in the first period, Predators center Craig Smith made the score 1-0 when he poked home a loose puck. It was his 12th goal of the season.
The Panthers tied the score with 8:57 left in the first period. Right winger Brad Boyes scored his 11th goal of the season on a shot that slowly trickled in between the pads of Mazanec.
With 2:04 left in the first period, Florida took a 2-1 lead when the Predators mishandled a rebound off of a shot by center Marcel Goc. The puck found its way right in front of the goal, where right winger Tomas Kopecky did not miss.
The Predators tied the score with 3:28 left in the second period as forward Colin Wilson passed to trailing forward Mike Fisher, who scored his 11th goal of the season. It was also the red-hot Fisher's ninth point in his past four games.
Florida took a 3-2 lead with just 2:31 left in the second period. Left winger Sean Bergenheim followed his own shot and got his ninth goal of the season.
The Panthers pounced on another Nashville mistake with just 1:34 elapsed in the third period. After a Predators turnover behind their net, center Jonathan Huberdeau pounced on it and fed the puck to Goc, who scored from point-blank range for his eighth goal of the season.
Nashville got to within 4-3 when rookie defenseman Seth Jones scored his fourth goal of the season with 5:08 left in the third period.
NOTES: Panthers RW Scottie Upshall returned after missing time due to an upper-body injury. ... The Panthers placed D Dylan Olsen (lower-body injury) on injured reserve. ... Panthers C Jesse Winchester (hand) and D Erik Gudbranson (eye) are also out. ... Panthers coach Peter Horachek was a longtime Nashville assistant coach. He worked with current Nashville coach Barry Trotz from 2003 until Horachek was fired in May 2013. The two men made it to seven playoffs together and still talk once a week. ... It will take a while to determine whether the Panthers made the right move in the 2013 draft when they took C Aleksander Barkov instead of D Seth Jones, who went fourth to Nashville. So far, both have played well. Barkov entered Saturday with seven goals, 12 assists and minus-1. Jones was at three goals, 10 assists and minus-10. ... Up next, the Predators end their three-game road trip Sunday in Carolina. ... The Panthers start a three-game road trip Monday in Montreal.
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