SUNRISE, Fla. – Jay Bouwmeester found the perfect way to celebrate an all-star selection.
Hours after being picked as a reserve for the Eastern Conference team, the defenceman broke a tie 31 seconds into the third period to help the Florida Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Thursday night. “Nice way to finish off a pretty good day,” Bouwmeester said.
Nathan Horton and David Booth also scored for the Panthers, who returned home from a four-game trip. Booth also had an assist and Gregory Campbell added an empty-net goal, snapping Carolina’s winning streak at a season-high four games.
Booth has five goals and six assists during a career-best seven-game point streak.
“You never want to be satisfied with how you are playing,” Booth said. “In this league, you have to keep getting stronger and working harder if you want to be successful.”
Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves.
Anton Babchuk and Sergei Samsonov scored for the Hurricanes, who didn’t allow more than two goals during their winning streak.
Cam Ward, making his seventh consecutive start for Carolina, stopped 27 shots.
“He’s been good and solid all the way straight through,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. “We didn’t give him a chance to be the difference in the game. I think we asked him too much tonight.”
Bouwmeester’s goal, his seventh of the season and first in 11 games, came as the result of some beautiful passing by the Panthers. Stephen Weiss fed the puck down low to Cory Stillman at the side of the net and he passed it across the crease to Bouwmeester, who one-timed it past Ward.
“We missed a guy,” Maurice said. “Our guys have got to have him backdoor, but they still made a good play on it.”
Horton increased the lead to 3-1 at 3:26, one-timing Booth’s pass across the goalmouth.
“I wasn’t sure how much gas was left in the tank in that third period, but the guys came out focused and found a way to get it done,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought it was one of our most solid 20 minutes this season.”
Samsonov pulled the Hurricanes to 3-2 at 15:15. He tipped in Eric Staal’s pass across the crease into an open net.
“I don’t think we were that bad,” Staal said. “We kept it a close game for a while, but then we gave up the power-play goal and it built up momentum for them. We tried to battle back, but it wasn’t quite enough.”
Booth opened the scoring at 14:15 of the first period with his fifth goal in his last seven games. After Ward stopped Jassen Cullimore’s wrist shot from the point, Booth put home the rebound with a backhander.
Babchuk tied it at 17:50, beating Vokoun with a wrist shot to the blocker side. It was the defenceman’s third goal in his last six games.
“He’s jumping in,” Maurice said. “He’s certainly got the confidence.”
Neither team scored in the second period, but Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu hit the post with a wrist shot from the slot.
“It was an unusual game,” Maurice said. “It was a really tightly played game, but it wasn’t necessarily physically contested. It was a strange night at the rink.”
Notes: Carolina D Tim Gleason left the ice midway through the third period with an injury to his lower-left leg. He was injured when he was checked into the boards by Campbell. Maurice said Gleason likely would undergo an MRI on Friday. … Florida didn’t get a shot on goal in the first 5 minutes of the game. … Babchuk’s goal was the career-high fourth of the season for the four-year veteran. … The teams have split their four meetings so far this season, with the home team winning every time.