Series (Game 3 of 5)

Winnipeg leads 2-1

Game 1: Saturday, December 1st
Game 2: Wednesday, December 26th
Game 3: Monday, December 31st
Game 4: Saturday, January 19th
Game 5: Wednesday, April 10th

Jets 3

(8-23-3, 24 pts)

Panthers 4

(12-20-3, 30 pts)

3:00 PM ET, December 31, 2001

BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

1 2 3 T
WPG 2 0 13
FLA 1 2 14

M. Nilson (Panthers - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

P. Bure (Panthers - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

D. Tjarnqvist (Jets - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

Van Impe, Panthers answer Keenan's call

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Panthers responded to coach Mike Keenan's heated mid-period speech.

Darren Van Impe's power-play goal with 10:45 remaining lifted the Panthers to a 4-3 comeback victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday.

Florida trailed 2-0 in the first period.

Keenan verbally challenged the Panthers after they headed into first intermission down 2-1.

"Coach gave us a little heck between periods," Van Impe said. "We came out, played harder, picked up the intensity a little bit and put the puck in the net."

Marcus Nilson added two goals for Florida and Pavel Bure had a goal and an assist as the Panthers improved to 1-12-2-1 when trailing after one period. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves as the Panthers won back-to-back games for the second time this season.

Atlanta has won just once in six games.

Van Impe, claimed off waivers from the New York Rangers on Dec. 18, scored his first goal for Florida to give the Panthers a 6-5-1 record under Keenan.

Positioned just outside the crease, Van Impe beat goalie Milan Hnilicka high on the stick side. Ivan Novoseltsev set up the play with a pass to Pavel Bure, who poked at the puck, which slid to Van Impe.

"I think Pavel was trying to shoot, it got deflected and went right on my tape and I threw it upstairs," Van Impe said. "We're getting the puck on net, and trying to keep it simple out there. It's working."

Darcy Hordichuk was serving a four-minute double-minor high sticking penalty at the time of the goal.

Atlanta coach Curt Fraser was upset with the call because he said Hordichuk was cut prior to his penalty.

"It's just a terrible time in the game to get stuck with that," Fraser said.

After Van Impe's goal, Hordichuk picked up an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while coming out of the box for criticizing referee Kerry Fraser.

"I told him, 'I'm respecting him and trying to make his job easier,' and then you go and call a cheap call like that," Hordichuk said. "Then when I came out of the box, I go, 'that's bull. That blew the game right there.' And he slapped an extra two on there."

On Dec. 26, the Panthers came back from being down 3-0 to tie the Thrashers 3-3 in Atlanta.

"It's not a habit you'd like to continue," Keenan said of being forced to rally. "But I guess if you are down, it's a habit that you'll take."

Frantisek Kaberle scored on the power play with 16:44 left in the third period to pull Atlanta even at 3. Tony Hrkac won the face-off back to Kaberle, who skated to the middle of the ice and ripped in a slap shot for his third goal of the year.

Florida took a 3-2 lead on Nilson's wrist shot at 9:50 of the second period.

Per Svartvadet's first goal of the season gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead at 4:21 of the first period. Outskating Lance Ward to a bouncing puck at the Florida blue line, Svartvadet fended off the Panthers defenseman and beat Luongo.

A Florida turnover set up a power-play goal by Shean Donovan, who gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead with a wrist shot from directly in front of Luongo.

The Panthers closed the gap to 2-1 on Nilson's wrist shot from the right circle.

The Panthers pulled even at 2 at 2:57 of the second on Bure's 11th goal of the season. With the teams skating four aside, Bure drilled in a one-time blast from a sharp angle to the left of Hnilicka.

Bure also wasn't pleased with the officiating, especially after taking a stick to the mouth from Lubos Bartecko.

"Kerry (Fraser) has so much experience and he didn't see it," Bure said. "They've got two (referees) there. You've got a stick in the face, you're bleeding and they don't see it. That's why Mario (Lemieux) retired two years ago because he didn't want to play this kind of hockey. ... They have to do something about it, otherwise it won't be a fun game."

Game notes
Thrashers center Bob Corkum strained his right knee ligament in the second period but returned in the third. ... Florida's Valeri Bure, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 19, is expected to play either at Los Angeles Wednesday or Anaheim on Friday. Valeri has missed the last 32 games. ... Atlanta rookies Dany Heatley (seven goals, eight assists) and Ilya Kovalchuk (six goals, nine assists) each had 15 points in December. ... The Thrashers finished December with 10 points, going 3-8-3-1. ... Panthers rookie Kristian Huselius has not scored a goal since Dec. 15 against the Islanders. He has one goal in the last 11 games. ... Svartvadet's goal was his first since March 16, 2001 against Columbus. ... Atlanta, 2-for-7 on power-play chances, has scored a power-play goal in four straight games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press