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Stunning comeback

Panthers' rally overshadows McEachern's hat trick

Posted: Saturday October 12, 2002 10:08 PM
Updated: Sunday October 13, 2002 1:13 AM

ATLANTA (AP) -- Olli Jokinen already is ahead of his normal pace.

Jokinen scored off a rebound with 10.2 seconds left in overtime and the Florida Panthers overcame a hat trick by Shawn McEachern to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-4 Saturday night.

The teams were skating 3-on-3 after penalties 10 seconds apart in the extra period. Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo was called for delay of game, and Ilya Kovalchuk was caught with an illegal stick.

Jokinen also scored the tying goal with 8:37 left in regulation on the power play, corralling the puck near the crease after an errant pass and beating Pasi Nurminen with a backhander.

"It's been a very good start to the season," Jokinen said. "Two points already, usually I get my first goal around Christmas."

The Panthers went 3-for-5 with the man advantage in regulation.

Shortly after the penalty to Luongo, Florida coach Mike Keenan challenged Kovalchuk's stick. Referee Blaine Angus discovered the curve of the blade was too much, and sent the second-year forward to the penalty box.

"He's not going to use those sticks anymore, that's it," Thrashers coach Curt Fraser said curtly.

When asked about his stick, Kovalchuk said, "Yeah, I knew."

Atlanta's Vyacheslav Kozlov had a chance to win it in overtime. He skated in alone on Roberto Luongo with 2:30 left, but the goalie easily blocked the shot.

Atlanta (0-2) had taken a 4-3 lead on McEachern's third goal. It was McEachern's second career hat trick, and the first for the Thrashers since Pascal Rheaume scored four goals Jan. 19, 2002, also against the Panthers.

McEachern, acquired from Ottawa in an offseason trade, scored the go-ahead goal during a two-man advantage. Kozlov handled a blocked shot by Dany Heatley and fed McEachern in front, and he easily beat Jani Hurme.

"They were really sharp on their power play, and we seemed pretty good, too," McEachern said. "We had so many chances, but couldn't get it done."

The Thrashers were 3-for-10 on the power play.

Florida coach Keenan showed little patience with Luongo, pulling him shortly after the Thrashers took a 1-0 lead barely five minutes into the game. After McEachern's third goal, Keenan sent Luongo back into the game.

"Everyone's got to be ready and everyone's got to do their job," Keenan said. "That is the message for us."

After his return, Luongo stopped all 16 shots.

"I knew there was a chance I could go back in, so I just stayed focused and everything turned out well," he said. "When I came in, the game wasn't over. You never know what could happen, and we scored two goals."

Nurminen, starting in place of Milan Hnilicka, gave up two goals on the first four shots he faced but settled down.

McEachern tied the game at 3 in the second period, kicking in a rebound of his own shot on a breakaway. He was dragged down by defenseman Branislav Mezei, but the puck bounced off McEachern's skate and into the net.

The referee didn't allow the goal at first, but video replay overturned the decision.

"He thought I kicked it on purpose, but I didn't even see it go in," McEachern said. "After I saw the replay, I thought they'd give me the goal."

Notes: Playing the second game of a back-to-back, the Thrashers rested veterans Jeff Odgers and Uwe Krupp. Defenseman Francis Lessard was a scratch for the second straight game. ... The Panthers have the youngest team in the league, with an average age of 24.5. ... Atlanta fell to (6-5-5-0) all-time against Florida. ... Actor Cuba Gooding Jr., in Atlanta filming a movie, watched from a front-row seat.

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