SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Panthers have never been very successful in overtime and shootouts, but they also never had a two-time Vezina Trophy winner such as Tim Thomas in net.
Thomas made a bushel of spectacular saves, including one in the last second of overtime, and Brad Boyes clinched a 2-1 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night at the BB&T Center to snap a three-game losing streak.
The Panthers improved to 3-6 and avoided their worst start since 2001-02 when they began 1-6-0-2 after nine games.
"The difference tonight was our level of work, our second efforts ultimately led us to the win," said Thomas, who had 32 saves, including the shootout attempts by Minnesota, and is now 31-27 in shootouts.
"That's exactly what I told the team before the game, I'm tired of losing and everyone else agreed they were, too."
The Panthers were desperate for the two points as their season-long, six-game homestand doesn't get any easier with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks up next, followed by the struggling Sabres, surprising Lightning and 5-1-1 Blues, who pounded Florida 7-0 two weeks ago.
With a second remaining in the Panthers' first 5-minute overtime of the season, Mikko Koivu passed to star forward Zach Parise, whose point-blank redirection was saved by Thomas' pad as the buzzer sounded.
Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau led off the shootout with a spectacular deke and forehand past Wild backup goalie Josh Harding, who entered with a league-leading 1.15 goals-against average. Huberdeau is 3-for-5 in shootouts with two game-deciding goals.
"That's my regular move that I do really often so it worked," Huberdeau said. "(Thomas) gives us confidence. He saved the game in the last second."
Thomas stymied Parise again and then Koivu, before Boyes' backhander slid under Harding. Boyes is 32-of-71 in shootouts.
"It was a much-needed win by our group," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Tim Thomas is a Florida Panther, his Boston days, we're beyond that now. He's a professional, and was brought in to win some games for us. And tonight he won it.
"You could just see a little bit of confidence when he's out there. That's why I elected to shoot second. He's going to make that first save and (Huberdeau) is going to work his magic."
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, the Panthers snapped an 0-for-9, 12-period power-play drought when rookie Aleksander Barkov deftly deflected a Tomas Fleischmann blast at 6:49. Barkov's third goal came on the Panthers' fifth man-advantage of the night against the Wild's 27th-ranked penalty kill.
Moments later the Wild enjoyed a 79-second, two-man advantage, but Thomas made a huge stop on Parise to keep the game tied. The Panthers killed off 4-of-5 power plays, including two separate two-man disadvantages.
"It's great to have a goalie back there making key saves," Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver said. "We made the simple plays, sacrificing bodies, but for sure it's great having somebody you can count on back there."
After a scoreless first period, the Wild clicked on their third power-play chance as defenseman Jonas Brodin's slap shot bounced off the stick of Panthers forward Jesse Winchester at 4:05.
It was the Wild's league-leading 10th power-play goal.
No grudges for Gilbert
Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert said he holds no grudge toward the Wild for using one of their compliance buyouts on him in July, but that doesn't mean the Minnesota native didn't have a tad more pep in his step Saturday against his former team.
"It's one of those things you can't control, so you make the most of it, you start off fresh again, you work hard trying to find a spot to play and fortunately for me it worked out in Florida," said Gilbert, 30, who will be paid $2 million by the Wild over the next two years and $1 million this year from the Panthers.
"There's always motivation like that."
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