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Panthers Back To .500 With Win


The Florida Panthers are back up to .500 and back in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Radek Dvorak scored a pair of goals and Sean Burke stopped 27 shots as the Panthers defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 Friday night.

The Panthers evened their record at 27-27-17 and kept their playoff hopes alive in the Eastern Conference, pulling ahead of the New York Rangers by one point for the ninth spot.

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  • Florida trails Boston by five points for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Panthers also lag just five points behind Carolina for first place in the Southeast Division.

    "We're doing everything we can on our end to stay in the (playoff) race, but we know we're going to need some help," said Florida right wing Ray Whitney, who scored his 23rd goal and added two assists.

    "We're encouraged by this game, but we know that we have a long road ahead of us."

    The Panthers again played without right wing Pavel Bure, who missed his 10th straight game with a sprained knee.

    Bure, who has 16 points in 11 games with Florida since his trade from Vancouver, will be examined on Monday in Birmingham, Ala., by knee specialist Dr. James Andrews.

    Nashville, with only one win in its last five games, has the worst record (6-15-3) against the East among Western Conference teams.

    Defensemen Kimmo Timonen scored his first career NHL goal for the Predators. Timonen's power-play goal early in the third period ruined Burke's shutout bid, with Florida leading 3-0.

    Dvorak recorded his second two-goal game of the season. Viktor Kozlov had three assists, two of them setting up Dvorak.

    "It's fun to score goals, but it's more fun when you score goals and win," said Dvorak, who notched goals No. 14 and 15.

    Dvorak's first goal of the night gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 2:23 of the first period. Kozlov dug the puck out from behind the net and flipped it to Dvorak, who bea goalie Tomas Vokoun from just outside the crease.

    "I was scared because I was so open. I felt I couldn't miss," Dvorak said.

    Rookie defenseman Dan Boyle gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal at 17:23 of the second period. It was the second goal in as many games for Boyle, who took Whitney's pass from behind the net and stuffed it past Vokoun.

    "I didn't know who was near the net, but I'm not surprised that it was Boyle," Whitney said. "He was up at the net all night. When you have a defenseman who's that active, it causes a lot of problems."

    Dvorak's second goal of the game came in the third period, also off a Kozlov assist, for a 3-0 Florida lead.

    "We battled fairly hard, and two of the goals we let in could have been prevented," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They did what they did best, which is getting the puck deep and crash the net. We had some good chances, but we didn't capitalize."

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