The Carolina Hurricanes looked ready to play from the moment the puck dropped. Throw in a couple of early turnovers from the Florida Panthers, and the Hurricanes had everything they needed for an easy win against a division rival.
Tom Kostopoulos and Jussi Jokinen scored first-period goals off those turnovers in Florida’s end to help the Hurricanes beat the Panthers 7-2 on Friday night, earning their second straight win after an 0-2 start.
Tuomo Ruutu also scored in the opening period for the Hurricanes, who led 3-0 after the first and cruised the rest of the way. Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Rod Brind’Amour and Jay Harrison also scored for Carolina, while Cam Ward finished with 25 saves – including on a pair of breakaway chances for the Panthers.
Carolina’s offence had managed just three regulation goals through its first three games. This time, Jokinen had three points while three others tallied multi-point games. Six of Carolina’s seven goals came from players who hadn’t found the back of the net yet this season.
“When you go three games and people you expect to score don’t, they feel it,” coach Paul Maurice said. “And they feel it right away. Hopefully those guys have just a little more confidence with the puck now.”
Shawn Matthias and Michael Frolik scored for Florida, but those goals came long after Carolina had taken control. Tomas Vokoun managed 21 saves before being chased from the game after Cullen’s score made it 5-1 barely 90 seconds into the third period. Things didn’t go much better for backup Alexander Salak; he gave up goals to Brind’Amour and Harrison just 19 seconds apart in the final minutes.
The Panthers – playing for the first time since travelling to Finland and splitting a two-game set with Chicago last week – certainly helped Carolina with a couple of miscues that quickly led to momentum-seizing goals. That was part of a dominating first period in which Carolina outshot Florida 16-5.
“Hats off to Carolina, they played a great first period, and the game was over in the first 20 minutes,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said.
First, with Florida on a power play, Kostopoulos reached out with his left arm as he skated by Florida captain Bryan McCabe and poked the puck loose between the circles. Kostopoulos quickly corralled the puck then pushed it under Vokoun from just outside the crease at the seven-minute mark for his first goal with the Hurricanes.
“It was surprising. My eyes were pretty big there,” Kostopoulos said.
“We were putting a lot of pucks on net and going to net, but nothing was happening (in past games). But I think tonight gives everyone more confidence that if we do the right thing, good things will happen.”
Ruutu got free for a breakaway chance a few minutes later, taking a pass from Sergei Samsonov and charging in from centre ice to beat Vokoun for the 2-0 lead midway through the period.
Then came Florida’s second big gaffe, this time with Vokoun and Dmitry Kulikov botching a handoff from behind the net. Jokinen was in the area, jumped on the loose puck and pushed it inside the near post for a three-goal lead.
“Really frustrating,” DeBoer said. “We knew coming into the game that if we turned the puck over against this team, they were going to make you pay a price for it. … We got what we deserved.”
NOTES: Julie Walker, the wife of Carolina winger Scott Walker, sounded the siren that precedes the Hurricanes’ entrance onto the ice. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer during last season’s playoff run, but has responded to treatments and is healthy. … Walker had an assist to earn his 100th points with Carolina, while Ruutu played in his 100th game with the Hurricanes. … Harrison’s goal was his first in the NHL. … Florida D Dennis Seidenberg, who helped Carolina reach the Eastern Conference finals last season, was on the ice for the Hurricanes’ first two goals but finished at minus-1.