Florida Panthers

Phoenix Coyotes cruise past Florida Panthers, cap pleasant Sunshine State trip

The Phoenix Coyotes enjoyed this quick trip through the Sunshine State.

Phoenix, battling for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, won for the second consecutive night as it topped the Panthers 3-1 on Tuesday at BB&T Center.

The Coyotes beat the host Lightning in a shootout the previous night and joined Boston as the second team in a row to pull all four points on the Tampa/Sunrise back-to-back set.

“We never really put our foot down to push forward and find an answer,’’ said former Coyotes defenseman and current Florida captain Ed Jovanovski.

“They’re fighting for their lives, and we’re fighting for different reasons.’’

The Panthers, after shutting out Buffalo in Roberto Luongo’s return last Friday, have lost two in a row and 10 of their past 13.

The Coyotes didn’t trail on Tuesday as they rolled out goalie Mike Smith (31 saves) for the second night in a row.

“He’s always a factor for them. He’s a great goalie,’’ coach Peter Horachek said.

Phoenix opened the scoring late in the first when Keith Yandle’s long shot was redirected past Luongo by Mike Ribeiro.

The Coyotes put the Panthers in their familiar 2-0 hole midway through the second when Oliver Ekman-Larsson took aim with a long shot from just inside the blue line.

Phoenix all but ended Florida’s night in the third when Radim Vrbata and Antoine Vermette hooked up on a pretty 2-on-1 rush.

“I need to find a way to make a save there,’’ Luongo said.

Florida cut into its deficit in the third when Brandon Pirri scored his first goal since coming over to the Panthers in a trade with Chicago on March 2.

Dallas scare

When Dan Ellis heard Rich Peverley had collapsed on the Dallas bench during Monday night’s game, he admitted he was scared and said a prayer for his good friend and former teammate.

Ellis was kept abreast of Peverley’s situation from friends on the Stars’ staff early in the ordeal and later by Peverley’s wife.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s doing well,’’ said Ellis, who was traded to the Panthers from Dallas last week.

“You’re thankful the doctors did as good a job as they did, thankful he’s alive.’’

Peverley, 31, didn’t play in the season opener against the Panthers after missing the preseason for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. Peverley has been on medication and monitored all season and missed last week’s game in Columbus because of it. Peverley did return to play against Vancouver two days later.

“When you can’t be there for someone you care about ... it’s heartbreaking,’’ said Ellis, who often rode with Peverley to games and practices during their time with the Stars.

Ellis said he and Peverley had extensive conversations on Peverley’s health and the procedures he had planned on undertaking.

“Everything seemed to be under control, he did everything they said he needed to,’’ Ellis said. “Then this happens.’’

• Horachek said Erik Gudbranson’s suspected knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought, but he will likely be unavailable for the next few weeks.

“The scans came back better than we anticipated,” Horachek said.

Florida also lost winger Jesse Winchester with an undisclosed lower-body injury, and he’s out for a few weeks as well.

• The Panthers called up veteran defenseman Mike Mottau and winger Joey Crabb from AHL San Antonio.

• Winger Sean Bergenheim left during the second period and didn’t return but said he didn’t think the injury was serious.

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