Sunrise, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Sean Bergenheim's goal with 4:31 remaining capped a furious Florida rally that catapulted the Panthers to a 3-2 victory over the playoff-hopeful Dallas Stars at the BB&T Center.
The Panthers potted three unanswered goals after Dallas' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin each scored in the game's first 21 minutes to deal the Stars a potentially damaging defeat, with Scottie Upshall and Brandon Pirri also lighting the lamp for a Florida team that had lost five straight and eight of nine coming in.
Dallas remained just one point ahead of Phoenix for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with four games left on the schedule. The teams will face off next Sunday in Arizona in the regular-season finale.
"Tough points to lose, it wasn't a good game for us," Seguin said.
Roberto Luongo did his part as well for Florida, turning aside 35 shots that included a 16-save third period. Kari Lehtonen came up with 21 saves in defeat.
Pirri's tally with under a minute to go in the second period knotted the score at 2-2 and gave the Panthers a surge of momentum heading into the third. After Luongo came up with several key stops to keep the contest deadlocked, Florida peppered Lehtonen with a barrage of shots that included Bergenheim's game- winner.
Lehtonen turned aside chances from Bobby Butler and Scott Gomez during a rush up the ice, but the Panthers kept the puck in the Dallas zone and Bergenheim converted a well-placed tip-in of Colby Robak's attempt to send Florida in front.
"I just tried to put my stick down on the ice and he (Robak) found it. It was a really nice play by him," Bergenheim said.
Luongo was penalized for delay of game just 48 seconds after Bergenheim's score, but Florida killed off the infraction and held off the Stars the rest of the way.
Florida trailed 2-0 nearing the midway mark of the second period before Upshall turned the tide with a re-direction of Eric Gudbrandson's long wrist shot from near the blue line. Pirri pulled his team even with 56.6 seconds remaining in the frame, one-timing a Jimmy Hayes feed into the top left corner of the Dallas net shortly after the expiration of a Panthers' power play.
Benn got a first period that the Stars dominated throughout off to a very strong start, splitting two Panther defenders in the neutral zone before breaking in alone on Luongo and firing the puck between the netminder's pads just 45 seconds after the opening faceoff.
A high-sticking double minor to Bergenehim late in the first period enabled Dallas to extend its lead early in the second. Seguin did the honors, putting forth a shot that caromed off Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski and in with 39 seconds elapsed in the middle session.
Seguin now has a goal in four straight games ... The visiting team had won the last six matchups in the series, with the Panthers posting a 4-2 decision in Dallas on Oct. 3 ... Pirri's goal was his third in four games ... The Stars went just 1-of-6 on the power play ... Dallas will play its next three games at home prior to next Sunday's finale in Phoenix, with the Stars hosting Nashville on Tuesday.