Panthers Scratch Thrashers

There's something about dead rodents that does wonders for Scott Mellanby's game.

The Panthers captain started a trend of fans throwing plastic rats on the ice during Florida's 1996 Stanley Cup Finals run after killing a rat in the Panthers' locker room. Mellanby disposed of a mouse on the National Car Rental Center ice prior to Tuesday's practice.

Mellanby broke out of a season-long slump with a pair of goals as the Panthers defeated the Thrashers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

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  • "I just put it out of its misery," Mellanby said.

    He also helped do the same to the Thrashers.

    Mellanby and Rob Niedermayer scored power-play goals and Ray Whitney added three assists. Sean Burke stopped 25 shots to earn his first win since opening night.

    Mellanby added an empty-netter with 24 seconds left in the game. The goals were his first since April 14.

    It hasn't been the best of seasons for one of the few original Panthers left. Mellanby suffered a concussion Oct. 12 at Montreal when he went head-first into the boards.

    "It's a good win for us," Mellanby said. "We didn't play our best. Ray Whitney had a couple of big-time plays."

    The Thrashers, paying their first visit to the National Car Rental Center, went up 1-0 early in a lethargic first period. Atlanta outshot Florida 9-4 in the period.

    "We came out a little sluggish early," Niedermayer said. "We've got to assert ourselves early on. We've got to get in and forecheck harder."

    Patrik Stefan, the top pick in this year's draft, scored for Atlanta in the first period.

    Florida tied the game with 41 seconds left in the period on the power play when Jaroslav Spacek's slap shot from the left point beat goalie Damian Rhodes after the puck glanced off the right post.

    "We finally started to get a little crack in the door with the power-play goal," Florida coach Terry Murray said.

    The Panthers, who improved to 6-1-1 at home, went up 2-1 on Niedermayer's goal at 8:08 of the second period.

    Whitney fed Niedermayer who beat Rhodes up high. He has 11 points in the last seven games.

    Mellanby notched his first in the third with Ed Ward in the penalty box for slashing.

    "I went pretty hard for it," Mellanby said. "You kind of let up because you think there's no way it's still going to be there."

    Bret Hedican, who had missed the last three games due to a suspension for breaking Sami Salo's arm in Ottawa, assisted on Niedermayer's goal.

    Expansion Atlanta's three wins have come against a trio of struggling teams in the Lighting, Flames and Islanders.

    "The effort was there tonight," said Atlanta defenseman Gord Murphy, an original Panther in 1993. "The execution was just a little off."

    Not for Burke and his teammates.

    "It's a long time," Burke said. "You try not to think about things like that, but sometimes it's hard not to."

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