Panthers notebook

Late pickups pay off big for Florida Panthers

When training camp opened and general manager Dale Tallon was finally allowed to spend some money, there wasn't much to choose from.

The players Tallon did sign during camp, for the most part, have played well.

Goalie Tim Thomas was the biggest name Tallon landed as Florida signed the five-time All-Star to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million (with a possible $1.5 million in bonuses) days before the season started.

Florida also brought in winger Brad Boyes as well as defensemen Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney on professional tryouts and signed all three to one-year deals.

Whitney was a frequent healthy scratch before being sent to the minors, but Boyes leads the Panthers with eight goals and Gilbert has been a solid shutdown defenseman who has played in all 23 games.

“Gilbert has been real solid, and Boyes has scored some big goals for us,”' Tallon said after Florida concluded its five-game road trip with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Flames on Friday.

“Thomas has kept us in a lot of games. It is what it is. We did the best we could at the time. If you look at Gilbert, aside from the Edmonton game, he's been a plus or even player all season. He's fit in nicely. Coming in late may have had a negative effect early, but he's in shape now and has been a plus for us.”

On Friday, Gilbert gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead when he scored after Nick Bjugstad won a faceoff in the Calgary zone. The goal was Gilbert's first since Feb. 7.

“Eventually if you shoot enough it will go in,”' Gilbert said. “That one felt good.”'

In Florida's 4-1 win in Colorado last week, Gilbert tied a career high with three assists.

With the salary cap lowered this year, Gilbert didn't find a home during the summer although Minnesota — where he had played the past two seasons — showed interest. He showed up for his tryout with the Panthers after camp started.

“It was an unfortunate situation because you want to be with a team as the season gets going,”' Gilbert said. “On the other hand, it gives you something to prove. I know it was a weird year, a different situation. But you get a chance to start over, to prove you can play.”

Not only has Boyes led the Panthers in goals, he also leads the team in shootout goals, scoring on three of his four shots. Boyes scored one of Florida's two shootout goals Friday and is tied with Minnesota's Zach Parise for the active player lead with 34 shootout goals in his career.

“Everyone is contributing in one way or another,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "You keep pushing, keep molding.''

Late Friday

Florida rallied from a two-goal deficit with third-period goals from Jimmy Hayes and Marcel Goc yet lost after six rounds of a shootout. Florida ended its five-game road trip 2-2-1.

The Flames got their first goal when defenseman Mike Mottau turned the puck over with Joe Colborne cashing in. Calgary scored again in the second and early in the third before the Panthers mounted a comeback.

Thomas lost his first shootout of the year as he stopped three of the six shots.

•  Jimmy Hayes, acquired in the Kris Versteeg deal with Chicago on Nov. 14, got his first goal with the Panthers in the third period Friday.

Reto Berra, Calgary's goalie, came way out of his cage to play the puck, but Shawn Matthias flew in and got in the way. Hayes picked off the puck, drove the net and scored into an empty net to cut Florida's deficit to 3-2.

The goal came a day after Hayes' 24th birthday and was his first in the NHL since Feb. 21, 2012. Hayes was stopped on Florida's sixth round of the shootout to end the game.

“I tried to read off the goalie, and he put it right on my tape,”' Hayes said. “I wasn't sure what he was doing but Matthias showed some good speed getting down there. ... It was great, a huge relief to get one.'”

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