The Panthers hope the low moment of the 2013 season came early on, one in which they lost at home to the Flyers by six goals.
If that indeed was Florida’s bottom point, the Panthers bruised egos have rebounded quite nicely.
On Thursday, the Panthers tied the score in the third before beating those same Flyers 3-2 in a shootout. Florida has now won three of four — and have a point in each of those games.
“There’s no doubt we were flat that night and that happens. They took it to us on a bad night,” said Stephen Weiss, whose power-play goal tied the score midway through the third period.
“It’s not about payback. It’s about competing, having a better effort. We need the points. It wasn’t about what they did to us. It’s about climbing back into the playoff race. We didn’t have the start we wanted, but we’re starting to build something.’’
Florida, now 4-5-1 and three points back of division-leading Tampa Bay, came into the third period down 2-1 after the Flyers scored the lone goal of the second.
The Panthers had been 0 for 3 on the power play before Dmitry Kulikov saved a puck and slid it to Tomas Fleischmann, who found Weiss in the slot.
Weiss popped the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov at 8:35 of the third to even things up.
From then on, it was the Jose Theodore show.
The Florida goalie, who was mercifully pulled by coach Kevin Dineen on Jan. 26 when the Flyers stomped the Panthers 7-1, stopped everything he faced.
Theodore made 10 official saves in the third and overtime periods before blanking the Flyers on their two shootout shots.
“It was a good game by both teams. In overtime they had a few chances but we didn’t panic,” said Theodore, who ended with 30 saves to earn top-star honors.
“It was a good win. That was a little payback for last time.”
Said Dineen: “He just decides that he’s going to stand up and be a difference-maker.
“He did a heck of a job. The overtime as well as the shootout, that was a big-league game by a starting goaltender.”
As Theodore was standing on his head, the Panthers incredibly went 2-for-2 in the shootout.
Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau opened things by deking out Bryzgalov on his first NHL shootout shot.
Huberdeau was 10 for 12 in shootout shots over the past three years in junior and said he went with the same shot that he used back in the Quebec league — leading Dineen to joke that the Flyers probably hadn’t gone back that far in their scouting.
“I was really nervous,” Huberdeau said.
“When I got up there, I was shaking a little bit. But I wasn’t nervous once I took the puck.”
A pleasing start
Florida wasn’t very good in shootouts last season, so to start this one off 1-0 felt pretty good.
After Huberdeau shot, Peter Mueller put one past Bryzgalov to really put the pressure on Theodore. He easily stopped Claude Giroux to give the Panthers the extra point.
Last year, the Panthers’ 11 shootout losses were second only to Montreal. Florida, 2 for 2 on shots Thursday, connected on just 22 percent of shootout shots last year.
“This is a time where you can steal a point,” Mueller said.
“It was nice for us to get two points to bail out [Theodore] after OT.”
The Panthers locker room was much more jovial Thursday than it was a few weeks ago after the Flyers embarrassed them.
It’s obvious these aren’t the same Panthers as that team was without key components such as Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Erik Gudbranson.
In that loss last month, the Panthers looked not only slow but meager as well.
On Thursday, Florida was flying — and not afraid to put someone into the boards. These were two completely different teams.
“It was no fun to get spanked that badly at home,” Dineen said. “It seemed like a long time ago because the schedule has been so frantic.
“... You can see us traveling as a team now and not individuals. Really, they are starting to play as a team. A coach can’t sell that enough.”