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Panthers finally score but still lose sixth in a row

Dec 3, 2006 - 3:10 AM SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- The Florida Panthers learned that while one is better than none, it still is not as good as three.

Olli Jokinen scored Florida's first goal in more than a week, but it was not enough as the Panthers' offense sputtered again in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.

J.P. Vigier and Glen Metropolit tallied for Atlanta, which has won four straight. Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves but still became the first netminder to allow a goal to Florida since Ottawa's Ray Emery was beaten by Gary Roberts on November 24.

"We just have to be persistent and get better," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "That's the bottom line. It's not outside, it's inside."

The Panthers had been shut out in three straight games - still five shy of the NHL record - and entered Saturday having not scored in 201 minutes, 31 seconds. Even their lone goal in this one was not pretty, but they were not complaining when a rebound caromed in off Jokinen while the captain was laying in the crease, forging a 1-1 tie late in the first period.

"We lose so many battles, penalties, mistakes, all of that," Jokinen said. "Those are the things you can control and you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of the rest of the team."

Metropolit responded at 4:01 of the middle session, taking a feed from Bobby Holik by the side of the net and stuffing a backhander past goaltender Ed Belfour for just his second power-play tally in 125 career games.

"I haven't been in on the power play much at all," Metropolit said. "But I have been getting some work in practice, so it's nice to be rewarded and given the opportunity."

It also was just the fourth game-winner of Metropolit's career, but his second in the last six games.

"He's 'Johnny on the spot' for us right now," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "He's got good skills and he's a great skater. When our power play wasn't productive, we just wanted to give a different spin. He got that big goal, a huge goal. It was a game-winner."

Florida's Gregory Campbell failed on a penalty shot early in the third period, when he was denied by Lehtonen's chest save.

Atlanta superstar Ilya Kovalchuk sealed the win with an empty-netter - his 17th goal of the season - with 35 seconds left.

"We hope we can keep this up," Lehtonen said. "We have a lot of guys playing very well right now."

Belfour finished with 22 saves for the Panthers, who have lost all five matchups with the Thrashers this season and six straight games overall.

"They've got our number, that's for sure," Florida center Chris Gratton said. "There's no question about it. They just seem to get it done against us."

"We are on a good roll," Atlanta defenseman Niclas Havelid admitted. "We got the bounces, and when that happens, it makes it much easier to play defense. We play well against them, but I wouldn't say we have their number. Sometimes you just match up well with one club, and it works the other way also, but we do seem to have success against (Florida)."

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