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Hurricanes 5, Panthers 1

Khudobin with another strong game and Canes jump on Panthers

Anton Khudobin stretches to make a save against the Panthers
Anton Khudobin stretches to make a save against the Panthers
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Anton Khudobin, who was recently named the NHL's first star for the month of January, continued his strong play and made 34 saves on 35 shots while leading the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers in front of 16,132 at PNC Arena on Friday night.

The goalie has now played in 16 straight games for the Hurricanes and will most likely start again on Saturday night, although coach Kirk Muller would not confirm that when asked after the game.

The Canes jumped out to a lead early on the Panthers as Riley Nash, Alexander Semin, and Brett Bellemore all scored goals in the first period.  Carolina is now 15-1-4 when scoring first in a game.

Nash got the scoring started 9:17 into the game when he found an opening in front of the Florida net and beat Tim Thomas with a well-placed wrister.  Tuomo Ruutu set him up with a sharp pass.

A minute and change after that goal, Semin scored his after an Andrej Sekera shot bounced out to him past the slot area.  A Panther touched the puck, so Sekera did not get the assist, but Semin beat Thomas on a long, wicked shot the goalie probably did not even see.

About five minutes later, the Panthers would make it 2-1, but Bellemore rifled his shot just beyond the slot area to reclaim the two goal lead for the home team, with just 1:39 left in the opening period.  Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner were both working the puck hard before it got to the defenseman and they both earned assists on the play.

Bellemore would get a rise out of the crowd once again later in the second period when he dropped the gloves with Erik Gudbranson.  Neither player could land any huge hits, but Bellemore flipped him on his back to the ice for the take down and win.

When asked about getting close to the traditional "Gordie Howe hat trick" after the game Bellemore joked, "yeah, "Harry" (Jay Harrison) said to get him the puck and he would make sure I got the assist I needed".

Jiri Tlusty made it, 4-1 at 4:36 into the second period on an easy goal right in front of an open net.  Tim Thomas was replaced at this point and Scott Clemmensen came in.

Bellemore would not get his assist but Sekera would score another goal, to add to his career best total of nine.  The goal came from a shot on the point during a powerplay opportunity during the third period and made the score, 5-1.

In between the Carolina goals, Khudobin was making a variety of saves when needed, a couple of them sparkling ones made on open breakaway chances.

The Hurricanes will play their final game before the Olympic break on Saturday night, with an early 6 p.m. start.

Game Notes:

  • Sekera led the team with six shots on goal.  The team was outshot 35-32 for the game. 
  • The Canes blocked 24 shots in this game and were led by Justin Faulk with six and John-Michael Liles with five.  Liles left the game early and his status is unknown.
  • Faulk played a game high 23:04. The lines were shuffled very well as Nathan Gerbe was low man with 12:35.
  • Eric Staal won 63% of his faceoffs and finished at +3 in this game.  Manny Malhotra won 58% of his.  The team was at 57%.
  • Ruutu led the team with five hits and had excellent passing on this night.  After the initial assist for Nash early, he found Nash for another great chance later in the game but the goalie got a piece of that shot for the save.