The two biggest disappointments in the NHL's Southeast Division entered play Saturday night looking to extend recent hot streaks.
Thanks to a late lapse by the Panthers, it was the Thrashers who continued their surge instead of Florida, which failed to hold a one-goal lead. Atlanta scored twice within a 17-second span of the third period to win, 2-1, its fourth victory in five games after losing five in a row.
"A minute of bad play cost us the game," coach Jacques Martin said.
Florida, which entered Saturday having won back-to-back games, again failed to achieve a three-game winning streak and extended the franchise record for consecutive road losses. The Panthers have lost 13 in a row away from Sunrise, with the last win October 25 at Pittsburgh.
"We have to win a hockey game on the road," Martin said, "and that's the bottom line."
The Panthers, who visit last-place Washington on Sunday night, played flawlessly for much of the game. Up 1-0, Florida gave up the tying goal in a scrum near the net. Roberto Luongo fought for a while, but finally Jim Slater sent a shot off Florida defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski and past Luongo's reach.
"We played two good periods, and they got a lucky one," Kwiatkowski said. "We have to come back like we did against Detroit. We have to be ready if a team scores to switch momentum. Obviously we didn't do that, and that's the ballgame."
Fans in the arena were still buzzing when Ilya Kovalchuk sent them into a frenzy with a goal 17 seconds later. Skating in on Luongo, Kovalchuk fired a shot that was deflected right back. This time, Luongo was on the ice, and Kovalchuk lifted it top shelf for a 2-1 lead Atlanta did not relinquish.
The two goals marked the lowest output in a Thrashers victory this season, but Michael Garnett earned his first one-goal game his short career.
"You have to tip your hat to him," winger Scott Mellanby said of the rookie goalie.
The high-scoring Thrashers were in position to take an early lead, with Marian Hossa getting the puck along the right boards and sweeping in on a breakaway. Defenseman Mike Van Ryn - who later injured his right shoulder - was at a tough angle but caught up, only to desperately lock on and impede the shot.
Hossa was awarded a penalty shot 1:04 into the game, but his soft shot missed.
"I just grabbed at the puck out of desperation," Luongo said. "I kind of got lucky."
Atlanta also had a number of scoring chances with Luongo repeatedly tripping after a loose stick somehow got lodged in his left skate. Atlanta took two errant shots at the net with Luongo flopping around as Van Ryn got rid of the hindrance. Luongo then made a glove save.
"I tried getting up three times," Luongo said. "That was kind of a weird situation. I've never even seen it happen to anyone else. I was kind of in a panic mode."
Florida scored with 4:24 left in the second as Nathan Horton scored his fourth goal in three games. Horton originally whiffed on a shot toward the net, with the puck softly going around toward Olli Jokinen. Florida's captain fired from a bad angle but Garnett made the save.
Horton was waiting for the rebound, and didn't misfire the second time.
"Jokinen threw the puck at the net," Martin said, "and we probably didn't do enough of that."
Sabres win 6th straight
Martin Biron made 30 saves in winning his 13th straight start and the Buffalo Sabres withstood Pittsburgh's late rally to beat the Penguins 4-3 Saturday.
Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who have won six straight and 10 of 11.
It was 10th loss in 11 games for the Penguins, whose 8-18-7 record is the worst in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo swept the home-and-home series that started Friday night in Pittsburgh with a 4-3 overtime victory.
The Penguins played without owner-captain Mario Lemieux, who had a recurrence of his irregular heartbeat and stayed home. Lemieux played Friday after sitting out four games with the same problem.
Biron became the first NHL goalie to win 13 consecutive starts since Detroit's Chris Osgood in the 1995-96 season.
In other NHL action: Carolina 4, New Jersey 1; NY Islanders 5, Colorado 4; Ottawa 8, Toronto 2; Detroit 6, Tampa Bay 3; Philadelphia 5, St. Louis 2; Nashville 7, Columbus 3; Minnesota 4, Montreal 3, OT; Calgary 3, Boston 0; Edmonton 5, Vancouver 4, OT; Los Angeles 4, Phoenix 1.