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Flyers, Beezer Beat Panthers

Now the Florida Panthers know the frustration opponents felt when they were turned away time after time by John Vanbiesbrouck.

Vanbiesbrouck made 25 saves in his return to South Florida, including three clutch stops in the third period, keeping the Philadelphia Flyers even until Keith Jones scored 26 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 victory Sunday night.

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  • "It must be a gratifying win for him," Flyers coach Roger Neilson said. "There were three point-blank shots there and he came up with them. He was sharp tonight. When he's that sharp, it's tough to beat him."

    Vanbiesbrouck was the Panthers' heart and soul for five years as Florida became the NHL's fastest-rising expansion club, going 33-34-17 in its first season and reaching the Stanley Cup finals three years later.

    But he signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Flyers over the summer, breaking the hearts of many South Florida fans.

    "It was somewhat of a homecoming, but I don't want to put too much emphasis on it," Vanbiesbrouck said. "If I did, then I'd put too much emotion into it."

    Greeted with about a 50-50 mixture of cheers and boos as he took the ice, Vanbiesbrouck turned in a third-period performance that recalled the best of times.

    He first turned away Scott Mellanby and Viktor Kozlov in close within a span of about 90 seconds early in the third period. Then with seven minutes left, he stopped Mark Parrish as he steamed through the right circle.

    "That was a tough one to lose," said Ed Jovanovski, whose first-period goal was the only shot to elude Vanbiesbrouck. "We need to get some bounces going our way."

    Eric Lindros assisted on both Philadelphia goals, stealing the puck from Robert Svehla behind the ne for the game-winner. Lindros sent the puck in front to Jones, who fired past Kirk McLean for his fifth goal of the season.

    "We deserved a better fate," Panthers coach Terry Murray said. "The thing you see against top players is if you mishandle the puck, fumble it or make one mistake with it in your own defensive zone, those great players capitalize on them. They go for the throat right away."

    John Leclair scored his 12th goal as the Flyers won their fourth game in a row. Philadelphia (9-6-4) has not lost since a 2-1 home defeat to Florida on Nov. 12, which ended an 0-5-2 run.

    LeClair gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead at 15:55 with his fourth goal in his last four games. Jones, tied up behind the net by Florida's Bill Lindsay, kicked the puck out to Lindros, who found LeClair charging the net from the right side for a one-timer.

    LeClair's 12 goals tied him with Edmonton's Bill Guerin for second in the NHL, trailing only Chicago's Tony Amonte.

    Jovanovski tied the game when he came out of the penalty box to score with 18.2 seconds left in the first period.

    Jovanovski, sent off for a high stick at 17:34, emerged from the box just as Rob Niedermayer raced to a loose puck near the Florida blue line. Jovanovski took the pass just in front of the opposite blue line, feinted left and sent a backhander behind Vanbiesbrouck for his second goal.

    "The few years I played with him, it was hard to score against him," Jovanovski said. "It was kind of nice."

    Earlier in the period, the Panthers (6-7-5) failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage for the second time in as many games.

    Danius Zubrus was whistled for hooking at 11:00 of the period and Marc Bureau went off 37 seconds later for high sticking. But Florida managed just three shots during the two-man advantage, the best coming on a slap shot by Jaroslav Spacek that hit Vanbiesbrouck in the chest.

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