Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu, stands by with Florida Panthers' Bryan Allen as a shot bounces off Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, April 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
RALEIGH – The Panthers know how to spoil a party.
And that’s a good thing.
Playing in a building they haven’t won in since December of 2002 - against a team and a sellout crowd waiting to celebrate a playoff berth - Panther goalies Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson withstood 43 Hurricane shots and the Panthers used a short-handed goal by Radek Dvorak to snap a 13-game winless streak here with a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes.
It wasn’t easy. The Hurricanes stormed the Panther zone all evening while the Panthers beat a path to the penalty box. The Panthers were called nine times for penalties in the first 50 minutes and Carolina had a pair of 5-on-3 power plays.
The Hurricanes? They didn’t have a penalty over those first 50 minutes. “We had so many penalties, five on threes, it felt like we were short the whole game,” said Nathan Horton who scored the 100th goal of his career in the second period.
But Panther penalty killers, led by Brett McLean, Jay Bouwmeester and Jassen Cullimore, were huge.
“It’s almost like we had to win,” said Steve Montador, who had a goal on the night. “Between breaking the record, the streaks, the refs…”
The Panthers now move on to Washington tonight where they close out the season and, once again, can help determine the winner of the Southeast Division. The Hurricanes must now hope the Panthers beat Washington to back into the playoffs.
The Panthers owed this victory, however, to their goalies. After Tomas Vokoun stopped 19 of 20 shots in the first period, he was forced out of the game to start the second with back spasms. Craig Anderson then played spectacular.
Just in the third period, he made a huge save on Sergei Samsonov during a 5-on-3, stopped Tuomo Ruutu with an acrobatic save with 6:42 remaining, and Samsonov again with 3:20 remaining in the game.
In the end, with seconds remaining in regulation, McLean won the faceoff from Tuomo Ruutu, the puck was cleared, and the Panthers had survived.
“Tomas was great in the first period and Craig was great the rest of the way,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin.
The Hurricanes, attempting to clinch the Southeast Division and a playoff berth, came out in front of a sellout crowd and even an on-ice appearance by injured captain Rod Brind’Amour.
“Tomas was great in the first period and Craig was great the rest of the way."
-Panthers GM & Head Coach Jacques Martin
Stat of the Game
The Panthers were called for nine minor penalties the game while the Hurricanes were called for just one (delayed call in which Jay Bouwmeester scored on in the first period). The Cats killed off seven of those penalties and 14:08 minutes worth. The most astounding stat is that 2:45 of it was a 5-on-3 advantage for the Canes.
As expected, the Hurricanes, 13-1-2 at the RBC Center since Jan. 29, came out quick. They outshot the Panthers 8-1 in the first nine minutes of the game and were rewarded at 7:25 when Trevor Letowski picked up a loose puck behind the net in the Panther zone, skated around to the front of the net, and slid the puck between Vokoun and the left goal post.
The Hurricanes stayed on the attack until 11:38 of the first period when Olli Jokinen, Radek Dvorak and Jozef Stumpel battled for a loose puck behind the Carolina net. Dvorak got control, and slid it to Jay Bouwmeester skating in from the left point. Bouwmeester beat Cam Ward high to tie the game at one.
Less than two minutes later, Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Nathan Horton passed the puck through the neutral zone and into Carolina’s zone before Horton left the puck for Steve Montador, who fired the puck past Ward for a 2-1 Panther lead.
But the Panthers had to adjust to start the second period when Vokoun left the game. Anderson, who had won his last five starts, picked up where he had left off.
While Anderson stopped the Hurricanes, the Panthers took advantage of every situation. At 10:13 of the second period, defenseman Bret Hedican got caught up ice and Ville Peltonen found Nathan Horton behind the Carolina defense and delivered the puck to him.
Horton skated in alone on Ward and, like all the Panthers goals on this night, beat Ward to the blocker side to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead.
The Panthers scored goals and got odd-man rushes during the game by “getting past the first wave (of Hurricanes),” Montador said.
But the Panthers found trouble at 12:33 of the second period when a clearing pass by Montador found the seats for a delay-of-game penalty. Incredibly, just 27 seconds later, Rostislav Olesz found himself sitting in the penalty box for the same crime.
While the Panthers managed to kill off a 1:33, 5-on-3 Carolina power play, Eric Staal scored just seconds after Montador came out of the box to make it a 3-2 game.
It was the first power play goal allowed by the Panthers in 30 chances stretching eight games.
But the Panthers once again came back.
With Karlis Skrastins in the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck in the Panther crease after Carolina chopped away at a loose puck in front of Anderson, Dvorak raced up the ice, skated around Matt Cullen inside the blue line, and wristed a shot from the faceoff circle past Cam Ward for a 4-2 Panther lead with 11.6 seconds left in the second period.
Once again, the Panthers found trouble. And, once again, it came seconds after killing off a 5-on-3 when Sergei Samsonov bounced the puck off the crossbar and behind Anderson to make it 4-3.
But that would end the scoring and, possibly the Hurricanes season. When told Capitals fans were cheering them on Friday night, Booth replied, “They won’t be cheering us (Saturday).”
GM and coach Jacques Martin was scouting a college player Thursday evening and missed Friday’s morning skate…Cory Murphy was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game…
1 - 0 CAR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 FLA
3 - 1 FLA