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Thrashers end five-game slide with 3-2 win over Panthers

Florida Panthers' Brett McLean, left, and Atlanta Thrashers' Garnet Exelby, right, battle for control of the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Sunrise, Fla. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Luis M. Alvarez

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Florida Panthers' Brett McLean, left, and Atlanta Thrashers' Garnet Exelby, right, battle for control of the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Sunrise, Fla. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Luis M. Alvarez

SUNRISE, Fla. - Mark Recchi was happy to end his month-long scoring drought. And the fact it all but eliminated the division rival Florida Panthers from playoff contention made it even better.

Recchi's goal with 6:13 left in the third period helped the Atlanta Thrashers snap their five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over Florida on Thursday night.

"You go through stretches like that unfortunately, said the 40-year-old Recchi, who hadn't scored since Feb. 23. "I used to be a little bit more consistent, but I'm not quite the sniper I used to be. I still feel good out there and can still make plays."

The loss damaged the Panthers playoff hopes. Florida has 81 points with four games remaining. Boston, which beat Toronto on Thursday, and Philadelphia are tied for the last two playoff spots with 88 points.

Nathan Horton and Radek Dvorak scored for Florida, which lost its second in a row after going 8-0-1 in its previous nine games.

Before losing to Atlanta, the Panthers lost at Tampa Bay. The Thrashers and Lightning have the two worst records in the Eastern Conference.

"It's sad, especially this game at home," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "Tonight, in front of your fans, you get back, you still have an opportunity."

What made the loss even more difficult to handle for Martin was a third-period scrum in front of the Atlanta net when the score was tied 1-1. Martin said the puck crossed the red line, but no goal was allowed and the play wasn't reviewed.

"The monitor officials were sleeping," Martin said. "The monitor officials, that's their job to look at everything close to the net."

Martin, along with his players, also pointed to Florida's inability to capitalize on the power play.

Florida was 0-for-7, including a 5-on-3 for one minute early in the third period.

"Maybe we have to keep things a little bit simpler," Florida captain Olli Jokinen said. "Sometimes the puck goes in, sometimes not, and tonight it definitely didn't go our way. But we've still got to keep working and generate chances."

Atlanta, which was 0-for-4 on the power play, got two goals by Bobby Holik, including an empty-netter in the final minute that made it 3-1.

Dvorak then scored with 1.9 seconds left.

The Thrashers, who won for only the third time in their past 18 games, already have been eliminated from playoff contention.

"If you're out of it, at least you go out there and play with pride," Recchi said. "They had to run the board, we knew that. It's a good feeling. I only know a couple guys over there. I feel bad for them but not for the team."

The victory snapped Atlanta's 10-game road losing streak. It was the Thrashers' first road win in regulation since a 2-0 shutout of Washington on Feb. 2.

"Was that the past season or was it the current season?" Holik asked jokingly.

Because of the power plays, Florida outshot Atlanta 45-28.

Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen stopped 43 shots.

Tomas Vokoun made 25 saves for Florida.

Recchi's game-winning goal came after Bryan Little poked the puck away from defenceman Karlis Skrastins deep in the Florida zone. Little grabbed the loose puck behind the net and centred a pass to Recchi, who one-timed it in from the front of the crease.

"It was a good forecheck," Recchi said. "He stuck with it, then he made a great backhand pass."

The teams were tied at 1 going into the third period before Horton missed a great opportunity to give Florida the lead.

After taking a cross-ice pass from Jokinen on a power play, Horton missed a wide-open net when his wrist shot grazed off the near post.

"I tried to get it at the net as quickly as I could, I didn't look to see where the net was," Horton said. "Obviously, it's tough and I'd like to have that back."

Atlanta's Eric Perrin had a breakaway later in the third period, but his backhand from a sharp angle went wide across the net.

Horton didn't miss when he had a breakaway at 9:46 of the second period. His backhand off a deke beat Lehtonen to tie the game.

Holik gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead with 7.2 seconds left in the first period when he put in the rebound off Ilya Kovalchuk's turnaround slap shot.

Florida dominated that period, taking advantage of four power plays to fire off 13 consecutive shots at one point.

"You look at where we are, this basically took us out of (any) chance," Vokoun said. "It's tough, no question about that. Against a team like that, playing at home, to lose a game in the position that we were, it's tough."

Notes: Atlanta C Erik Christensen missed his fourth consecutive game because of a knee injury. ... Florida leads the season series 4-3, with the last meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Atlanta. The Thrashers have won the season series the past three years. ... This was Atlanta's first game since last Friday.

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