1/23/97 -- 5:53 AM

Panthers-Whalers


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Robert Kron doesn't score often. He does pick good times to score.

Kron, a right wing who has only six goals this season, scored with 14 seconds left in overtime to lift the Hartford Whalers to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

It was Kron's second overtime goal against Florida and third game-winner of the season. He said it felt good to win the game but wasn't overly excited, acknowledging he's been struggling a bit on offense.

``It feels great,'' Kron said. ``I'm not going to sit here and say I feel cool about it.''

Kron picked up the rebound of Jeff O'Neill's shot, snaked around the front of the net as he got control of the puck, and wristed a shot through the legs of sprawled goalie Mark Fitzpatrick.

``That's real tough, real disappointing,'' said Florida's Rhett Warrener, who was defending Kron when he scored. ``We had a real slow start, then we played real strong. It shows you've got to play right to the end.''

The game-winner came soon after 56 minutes worth of penalties - including four misconducts - were dealt to four players on each team following a fight.

``The game definitely had a kind of playoff atmosphere,'' Warrener said.

Fitzpatrick was a central figure in the brawl, when Florida players rallied to his side after Hartford's Keith Primeau skated into the goalie with his stick.

``Without question, tonight was team toughness,'' said Primeau, who scored the Whalers' first goal. ``That's the only way you're going to be successful.''

Whalers goalie Sean Burke, coming off a 44-save performance against Toronto, stopped 40 shots and had to work especially hard after the first period to preserve Hartford's second straight win after an 0-8-1 slide. Florida surged with a 34-19 shot advantage over the last two periods and overtime.

Burke, who was not overwhelmed following Hartford's win against Toronto two nights earlier, was more satisfied by his team's performance this time.

``I'm happier. We played very gritty tonight. We didn't play our greatest game, but we showed a lot of character,'' he said.

Tom Fitzgerald scored the only goal for Florida, which extended its winless streak to four games (0-3-1) despite a season-high 41 shots.

``I thought it was a real good effort by everybody,'' Florida coach Doug MacLean said. ``We are not going to worry about frustration, we are going to worry about winning games.''

Primeau opened the scoring at 11:47 of the first period. Nelson Emerson picked up a loose puck behind the right goal line and found Primeau skating up between the circles with a swift backhand for his 14th goal of the season.

Fitzgerald tied the score early in the second, taking a drop pass from Mike Hough and wristing a shot by Burke, who was screened.

There were no penalties or scoring in the third period, although both teams had good chances.

One of Hartford's best shots came with 16 seconds left, when Curtis Leschyshyn's slap shot was deflected through a crowd, hit the left post and nearly went in after bouncing into the back of Fitzpatrick's skate.

Florida had a few good shots blocked by Burke in the last five minutes of regulation, including two straight backhanders by Dave Nemirovsky and a wrist shot by Bill Lindsay on a 2-on-1 break.

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