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Panthers edge Wild in shootout

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers, who entered Saturday night on a three-game losing streak, apparently decided that enough was enough.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes scored in a shootout, and goaltender Tim Thomas stopped both of the shots he faced to lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild at the BB&T Center Saturday night.

"We needed a win, and we'll take it any way we can get it," said Thomas, who stopped Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu in the shootout. "We won it in a shootout, but we earned that win through hard work.

"I'm tired of losing, and that's what I told the team before the game. And everyone agreed."

Thomas said the shootout aspect of the win did not diminish what the Panthers accomplished.

"When you win in a shootout, it's a true win," said Thomas, who had 31 saves. "When you lose in a shootout, it's not really a true loss. That's just the way it is."

Of his shootout goal, Huberdeau said his strategy was simple.

"I just tried to move the goalie to one side," he said, "and go the other side. That's what I did and it worked out."

Huberdeau said he advised Boyes to go glove-side on what turned out to be the game-winner. Boyes went to his backhand and scored five-hole.

Meanwhile, the Wild, who started the night tied for fourth in the Western Conference with eight points, have lost three games in a row.

"It's a familiar script," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I'm disappointed for our guys. They are playing their tails off. We are playing great defensively, we are generating chances, but we're not winning games."

The game evolved into a duel between two-time Vezina Trophy winner Thomas and Josh Harding, of Minnesota.

Harding, a career backup, is having his best season, playing in place of Niklas Backstrom, who only Thursday returned from injury.

Of Harding's 22 saves, perhaps the best one came with 1:14 left in overtime. He made a glove save on a point-blank shot by Tomas Fleischmann.

Yeo said it will be tough to bench Harding the way he is playing.

"We do want to get 'Backie' in -- we don't want him sitting around forever," Yeo said. "But 'Hards' has been great. He had no chance on their goal. He's been nothing but great."

After trailing early, the Panthers tied the score 1 on Aleksander Barkov's tip-in power-play goal with 13:11 left in the game. The rookie's third goal of the season came after a one-timer from the right side by Fleischmann, who took a pass from Brian Campbell.

Florida outshot the Wild 6-4 in the third period. The Panthers also killed off a 5-on-3 Wild power play for 1:19. It was the second such advantage the Panthers killed in the game.

"That was huge," Huberdeau said. "Our guys are working really hard, blocking shots. Getting our PK going was really important, and Tim is a great goalie."

Minnesota got the game's first score, a power-play goal by defenseman Jonas Brodin with 15:55 left in the second period. Brodin, who beat Thomas five-hole, was set up by Dany Heatley and Mikael Granlund.

The assist by Heatley was significant because he has been in a major slump. He entered Saturday with no goals and one assist in eight games.

Florida, which was outshot 13-8 in the second, went 0-for-2 on the power plays in the period.

Neither team scored in the first period. Both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play. That included a 5-on-3 advantage the Panthers had for 22 seconds after first Nino Niederreiter and then Kyle Brodziak got sent off for high-sticking and hooking penalties, respectively.

The Wild had their own 5-on-3 advantage, this one for 31 seconds, after first Brad Boyes and then Jesse Winchester were whistled for hooking.

When the period was over, the Wild had outshot the Panthers 11-7.

NOTES: Heatley, 32, is in the final year of his contract, and he has a $7.5 million cap hit this season. ... Wild G Darcy Kuemper, 23, was sent to the minors after allowing three goals on seven shots Tuesday in Toronto. ... The Panthers sent G Scott Clemmensen, 33, to the minors now that starter Tim Thomas has returned to good health. ... Panthers LW Sean Bergenheim, 29, who missed last season because of hip and sports hernia injuries, still is not ready to go. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Friday he is "worried" about the career of Bergenheim, a former first-round pick who scored 17 goals in 2011-12. ... The Wild, who completed their four-game trip Saturday against the Panthers, return home to play Nashville on Tuesday. ... Up next for the Panthers is a game Tuesday against defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago. It's the third of a six-game homestand.
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