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Panthers’ Lowry Hopes Beard Grows Long

May 23, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ Florida’s Dave Lowry can’t return to the bench after a shift without his teammates touching him for good luck. He can’t go to breakfast at his favorite bagel shop without patrons giving him a standing ovation.

And the left wing’s beard keeps growing longer.

Lowry, an 11-year journeyman, stopped shaving at the start of playoffs last month. Since then, he has almost matched his scoring output during the regular season with nine goals in three playoff series.

``I scored 10 goals during the regular season,″ he said. ``Nobody is going to see me as a scoring threat.″

The score sheet speaks differently. Lowry follows only Colorado’s Joe Sakic (14) and Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux (11 each) in individual goal scoring in the playoffs so far.

Lowry, described by teammates as the superstitious type, says he’ll keep the beard as long as it keeps working.

``It just feels something must be going right for the team for this to happen,″ said Lowry, who was picked by Florida in the expansion draft three years ago. ``I’m just trying to go to the net.″

As the Panthers head into Game 3 in the Eastern Conference championship series against Pittsburgh, Lowry’s red beard is starting to look a bit ragged. The series is tied 1-1 with the next game Friday at the Miami Arena.

Lowry scored two goals against the Penguins in the Panthers’ 5-1 win in the series opener. ``He has two goals and no shots,″ perplexed Pittsburgh coach Eddie Johnston said.

Lowry says many of the goals have been ``garbage″ _ a redirected shot into the net or a lucky bounce.

Lowry has converted on 31 percent of his so-called garbage shots (nine of 29). Many of the goals have been on the power play and others have been back-breakers for opponents _ like the overtime score against Philadelphia in Game 4 in the conference semifinals that turned the series around for Florida.

He has become the newest addition to the playoff phenomenon in which a player not known for scoring becomes a goal machine. Last year, New Jersey’s Claude Lemieux scored 13 goals in the playoffs after only scoring six during the regular season. The Devils won the Stanley Cup, and Lemieux was named MVP.

Panthers captain and center Brian Skrudland said Lowry is not your typical no-name breaking out during the postseason.

``Dave Lowry is not one of those guys,″ Skrudland said. ``He really works hard. I like to say he’s the Clydesdale of the Panthers. ... It’s just nice to see the work of a so-called journeyman be highlighted.″

Lowry credits his success to his linemates, Stu Barnes and Ray Sheppard, who have a combined 17 assists in the playoffs.

``Stu has played excellent in the playoff, and Ray is just a great goal scorer,″ Lowry said.

Yet, it is the 31-year-old from Sudbury, Ontario, who has become one of the most popular Panthers. At a bagel shop near his South Florida home, Lowry walked in for breakfast one recent morning and received a standing ovation.

He has said he feels as if he is walking around in a haze these days and doesn’t want to find his way out.

Eight years ago, Lowry almost quit hockey to become a policeman after being sent to the minors. Later in his career, he was left unprotected by St. Louis, and Florida _ looking for physical, hard-working players _ nabbed him in 1993 with its 35th pick overall.

``It’s a great feeling,″ Lowry said of what has transpired over the last month. ``A lot of us came here three years ago with one goal in mind _ get into the playoffs. ... This team has earned respect.″

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