RALEIGH, N.C. – After squandering a two-goal lead in an arena they’ve struggled to win in, the Florida Panthers had reason to brace for the worst.
Instead, the Panthers surprised themselves when Bryan Allen’s quick slapshot from the boards 1:16 into overtime eluded Cam Ward’s glove and gave Florida a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
Florida improved to 6-25-2 all-time at the RBC Center, a fact that ran through at least some of the players’ minds after the Hurricanes roared back from a 3-1 deficit early in the third period.
“It’s tough,” Allen said. “Obviously our history (here) doesn’t help. We’ve got to try to change that. Little steps like tonight helps give us a little confidence.”
Cory Stillman, Chris Higgins and Dennis Wideman also had goals for Florida. Scott Clemmensen made 34 saves as the Panthers improved to 5-1-2 in their last eight games and 18-17-2 on the season.
“We were wondering when the last time the Florida Panthers were above .500,” Allen said. “It’s good. We’ve got to keep chipping away.”
Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk and Jay Harrison had the Hurricanes’ goals. Ward made 24 saves but couldn’t help Carolina win its fourth straight.
“I liked the way we fought back in the game,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.
Both teams have played well recently to propel them to the fringes of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, and both went after each the other in a spirited third period and overtime.
“You could see we hit the wall there in the third period a little bit,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. “But we found a way to win, and that’s the big thing.”
After Stillman gave Florida a 3-1 lead, Carolina rallied thanks to goals from Boychuk and Harrison.
Boychuk scored first when he walked out in front of the net and snapped a shot past Clemmensen’s blocker. Harrison scored with a wrist shot from the slot that slipped through Clemmensen’s legs.
“Hopefully we can take the positives from it and keep a good feeling in the room and not focus on the negatives and go the other way,” Carolina’s Erik Cole said.
Earlier in the third period, Stillman, who helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006, skated down the slot and beat Ward with a quick wrist shot to the blocker side.
Higgins gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the second period he planted himself just outside the crease and smacked a rebound of a Dmitry Kulikov shot past Ward.
The teams traded goals late in the first period.
Dalpe, a rookie who was called up from Charlotte on Dec. 31, scored his second goal in as many games when he deflected a pass from Troy Bodie, who caught Clemmensen out of the net and centred the puck from behind the goal. The puck went off Dalpe’s skate, and the goal withstood a video review.
The Panthers tied the score shortly thereafter when Wideman’s shot from the point deflected off a Carolina player and past a screened Ward.
NOTES: Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen (lower body) and Joni Pitkanen (upper body) missed the game with injuries. … Florida hit two goal posts in the first 6 1/2 minutes. … The Hurricanes were 13-1-2 when scoring first.