SUNRISE - Bryan McCabe called it a “character win,” and for the Panthers it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Desperate and doubtful, the Panthers didn’t back off Monday evening at the BankAtlantic Center despite losing a two-goal lead. Rather, they finished strongly on their way to a 3-2 victory over Southeast Division rival Carolina.
It was a big win for the Panthers, who had lost three of their previous four games and were fighting to keep out of the cellar in the Eastern Conference.
David Booth celebrated his 24th birthday with a goal, and Ville Peltonen and Gregory Campbell each scored to start the week right for the Panthers, who have home games Wednesday against the Devils and Friday against the Rangers.
“That’s the way we have to play,” said Radek Dvorak, who assisted on Peltonen’s goal.
“We have to be determined,” Peltonen said. “We showed in the first and third periods what that can do.”
Coach Peter DeBoer, who promised changes would be made if the Panthers didn’t turn their season around, said; “We did a lot of good little things.”
Unlike some of their previous games, the Panthers were sharp at the start Monday evening. They worked the puck low and made the Hurricanes’ defense chase the puck. The Panthers were rewarded for their work.
Just 7:04 into the opening period, Booth picked up a drop pass from Nathan Horton just inside the Carolina blue line and wristed a shot past goalie Michael Leighton.
Just eight minutes later, Ville Peltonen scored his second of the season when he banged away at a rebound in front of the Carolina goal to send the Panthers to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
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“We came out pretty good in the first,” said defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who blocked three shots. “It was nice to get out to a bit of a lead.”
But when the Panthers appeared for the start of the second period? “We fell asleep for about 10 minutes,” McCabe said.
“It wasn’t very good,” agreed Bouwmeester.
Just 25 seconds into the second period, Tuomo Ruutu beat goalie Tomas Vokoun (27 saves) on a rebound off a shot from Sergei Samsonov. Less than two minutes later, the Hurricanes tied the game at two on a goal from Chad LaRose.
It got a little scary just 57 seconds after LaRose’s goal when Joni Pitkanen clanged the puck off the post. It took a few minutes, but the Panthers regrouped and got back to playing the game that made them successful throughout the first period. Once again, they worked the puck in the Hurricanes’ zone.
With 2:28 remaining in the second period, Peltonen skated from behind the Hurricanes’ net, moved to the top of the right faceoff circle, and wristed a shot that bounced off Campbell’s glove and past Leighton for the winning goal.
Rather than sitting back in the third period, the Panthers continued attacking the Hurricanes. They held Carolina to only seven shots in the third period and got some big saves from Vokoun on Ray Whitney and Scott Walker.
“We found a way to weather the storm,” said DeBoer of the second period.
“We got back to the way we started the game; we cycled the puck a lot and we held it in their zone for a while,” McCabe said.
“We’re a hard working team and if we keep turning the ‘D,’ going to the corners for the pucks, get on the forecheck, we can be dominating. If you spend 30 or 40 seconds in their zone, it’s good for us and bad for them.”
The Panthers, 8-11-1, will try to make it two consecutive victories Wednesday when they play host to New Jersey.
“We have to carry this over to Wednesday,” Peltonen said. “We can’t be satisfied with one game.”
The Panthers’ Richard Zednik left the game at 6:33 of the second period with a left arm injury… Wade Belak cleared waivers Monday at noon. He remains on the Panthers’ active roster and will practice Tuesday with the team. Like Cory Murphy, who cleared waivers earlier this year, the Panthers have 30 days to decide whether they want to send Belak to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester. Belak was a healthy scratch Monday evening. Nick Boynton was out with a concussion… The Hurricanes were without Patrick Eaves (upper body injury)…
AND DOWN ON THE FARM
Rochester Amerks coach Benoit Groulx was so unhappy with his team’s 4-2 loss Saturday that he held practice Monday without any pucks. Just skating drills from the blue line all the way to the other end of the ice. And when someone appeared to be slacking, like Keaton Ellerby, they hit the ice for pushups, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
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