RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes brought back Matt Cullen for power-play performances like these.
Cullen had a goal and an assist with the man advantage to lead Carolina to a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Cory Stillman, Chad LaRose and Trevor Letowski also scored, and Jeff Hamilton and Rod Brind’Amour each had two assists for the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who entered with the league’s fifth-best power play and scored on two of their four chances.
“We’re at our best when there’s a lot of movement, guys jumping in and out of holes, side to side, downhill, up high, and we’re able to create chances from that,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.
Cullen has been a big part of that activity, scoring his third power-play goal of the season and generating the kind of scoring chances that made him such a key component of Carolina’s Stanley Cup run in 2006.
After signing with the New York Rangers before the 2006-07 season, the Hurricanes traded for him this summer to centre their third line and help orchestrate their special teams. This time, he helped Carolina snap Florida’s two-game winning streak and avenge a two-goal loss to the Panthers three days earlier.
“We were all upset and angry about the way that we performed,” Cullen said. “It’s not often that you have the luxury of going right back at the team that just beat you, so certainly we wanted to prove something.”
Jay Bouwmeester and Richard Zednik scored for the Panthers, who were denied their first win here since 2002 and fell to 2-6 on the road.
“We have to put forth a better effort. There are some guys who are putting forth a good effort, and there are some who are not,” goalie Tomas Vokoun said. “We’re not the kind of team that can play on 10 or 15 players.”
Florida has lost 12 times and tied once in its last 13 visits to Raleigh.
“We sit back (on the road),” Panthers centre Stephen Weiss said. “When we’re at home, we go at them. … We talk about (it) but we just don’t do it.”
Vokoun stopped 36 shots for Florida, while Carolina backup John Grahame made 22 saves in his first victory at home this season. The Hurricanes held a 40-24 shots advantage.
“Our identity should be to get the puck to the net as much as possible, regardless of who we’re playing or whether we work on it in practice,” Laviolette said. “If you can put the puck on the net 40 times, or 40-plus times, there’s a good chance you’re going to score goals, especially with the group we have in there.
“It’s when we’re sitting back on our heels a little bit, and looking to pass or be a little bit cuter than we should be, that we don’t get those scoring chances.”
The division rivals have some bad blood between them that dates back to last season, when Carolina went 7-1 in a season series that Florida accused the Hurricanes of diving throughout. During last week’s loss in Florida, Carolina loudly objected to two diving penalties, with right wing Justin Williams insisting to reporters that “I’m not going to have my reputation ruined.”
There weren’t any diving calls this time – just more of the same strong special-teams play by Carolina.
Cullen opened the scoring midway through the first by converting with the man advantage, parking himself near the goal and hammering home the rebound of Hamilton’s long slap shot.
Then, Stillman restored Carolina’s two-goal lead with 8:53 left in the game, when he screened Vokoun and redirected Cullen’s blast from the point.
“It was important for us to keep our foot on the gas, and in the third period we played really well and got the separation we needed,” Cullen said.
In between, the Hurricanes twice led by two goals during a wild second-period stretch marked by a combined three goals in less than two minutes.
LaRose started the scoring flurry when he took a pass from Brind’Amour and snapped a shot past Vokoun to make it 2-0. Then, 19 seconds after Bouwmeester skated in from the point and beat Grahame high, Letowski put the Hurricanes back up by two goals when he snapped the rebound of Hamilton’s shot past Vokoun.
Notes: Both of Bouwmeester’s goals this season have come against Carolina. … This was the second of four meetings between the teams in an 18-day span. … Stillman rang the left post with a one-timer in the first. … Florida C Olli Jokinen extended his points streak to four games with an assist on the Panthers’ first goal, but his three-game scoring streak ended.