Three times on Tuesday, the Florida Panthers took a lead. Three times, the Carolina Hurricanes answered. There wasn’t to be a fourth Panthers lead, as the Canes stole a 4-3 win at BB&T Center to win the season series, extending their point streak to eight straight games and pulling them closer to the final wild card spot with eleven games remaining in the season.
The Canes’ first shift was essentially a carbon copy of the one that gave them an early lead on Saturday against the Predators. Jordan Staal nearly beat Reto Berra, starting his first game of the season, and a tip chance from a Jaccob Slavin shot followed. This time, though, the tip went wide.
A minute later, the Canes found themselves in an early hole. A point shot by Jason Demers was tipped in past Cam Ward 1:35 into the game, and Shawn Thornton nearly doubled the lead a couple of minutes later with a backhander that beat Ward but couldn’t get past the post.
With the Panthers controlling the balance of play, it took a Vincent Trocheck penalty to give the Canes a chance to regroup. Ninety seconds into a power play that never left the Florida zone, Teuvo Teravainen pulled the game back to all square with a backhand from the goal line on a rebound that Berra kicked out from a Staal shot.
At that point the Canes were up 6-2 in shots, but they immediately started allowing the Panthers to dictate play again, and the home team reeled off a 7-1 run that culminated in Reilly Smith getting behind Sebastian Aho and tapping home a tic-tac-toe passing play from old friend Jussi Jokinen.
The goal-fest continued at 14:27, with the Canes again tying the game, this time shorthanded. Elias Lindholm forced a turnover, drew a defender to him, and backhanded a blind pass to Aho. The rookie scored his 21st through Berra’s legs, an excuse-me goal that rolled off Aho’s stick and right into the net.
The shorthanded goal, the Canes’ tenth of the season, pulled them into a tie for the league lead with the Nashville Predators. His assist on the goal extended Lindholm’s career high point streak to eight straight games, and gave him 30 assists on the year, 19 of which are primary.
Lest you think that the goaltending would improve at the intermission, Keith Yandle came out and gave the Panthers their third lead of the night just over a minute into the second period, on a shot that Justin Faulk tipped past Ward, then Jeff Skinner dutifully tied the game again 27 seconds later, cleaning up the rebound of a Lee Stempniak breakaway shot. At the time, there were six goals on 28 combined shots, the Panthers holding a 16-12 lead, in what was quickly starting to resemble a Canes/Islanders game.
Jaromir Jagr nearly gave the Panthers yet another lead with eight minutes remaining when the post saved Ward for the second time in the game. Amazingly, the rest of the period played out with no goals, which by that point was enough to earn a breaking news alert. At the end of the period, the two teams hooked up in a brief line skirmish, with Trocheck and Brock McGinn taking exception to each other and Joakim Nordstrom coming in to stick up for McGinn and landing a couple of haymakers on the Panthers center.
Ward kept the game tied early in the third as the Canes continued to be ineffective in their own zone. Saves on Michael Matheson, Derek MacKenzie and Colton Sceviour, the latter two on partial breakaways, were enough to keep the Canes in the game, as it settled down from the frantic scoring pace from earlier.
With Klas Dahlbeck and Jonathan Huberdeau in the box for coincident roughing penalties, the second such pair of infractions in the game, the Canes’ defense saved a goal. Phil Di Giuseppe poked the puck off the stick of Reilly Smith in the slot, and Jaccob Slavin added to his team-high blocked shots total with his 146th of the season, deflecting a Trocheck shot over the net.
The Panthers kept coming. Trocheck, again. Jussi Jokinen. Trocheck for a third time. Sceviour. All answered by Ward, while meanwhile the Canes went five minutes without a shot.
And then, out of nowhere, Derek Ryan spun off a defender and threaded the needle to Skinner, who crashed the net and earned the go-ahead goal. Berra looked to have made the save, but Skinner had just enough on the shot in front of MacKenzie to get the puck to dribble across the goal line and give the Canes the lead with five minutes to go.
That was the difference, as Ward and Brett Pesce stood tall with Berra out of the net in the final minute to give the Canes two points and draw them to within six points of the idle Toronto Maple Leafs in the chase for the final playoff spot. Berra made 21 saves on 25 shots in a losing effort; at the other end, Ward stopped 33 of 36 to earn the win.
Rank the Performances
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