RALEIGH, N.C. – After skating around one Florida player and faking out another, Joe Corvo lost count of how many Panthers he eluded.
“I thought there’d be a goalie in there,” Corvo said. “I don’t know where he went.” No, Joe, you deked him out of the picture, too. Corvo’s acrobatic goal with 43.3 seconds left in overtime lifted the Carolina Hurricanes past the Panthers 2-1 on Thursday night.
It took an exceptional individual effort from Corvo for the Hurricanes to wrap up their second straight win and third in five games. The offence-minded defenceman took a feed from Ray Whitney in the high slot, faked to get around David Booth and backhanded the puck high and past both centre Gregory Campbell and goalie Tomas Vokoun for his second goal in two games.
“I think everyone thought he was going to shoot it, and then he tried to fake,” Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then I thought he was going to fall down, and I thought their guy was going to go the other way.
“Then, he got it and he made one move, and I thought he was going to shoot it,” he added. “And I was in front, just saying, ‘C’mon, put it at the net,’ and he just walked down the defenceman and made a great move on the goalie.”
Justin Williams scored his first goal in nearly 13 months and Whitney had two assists for Carolina, which held a 37-20 shots advantage.
The Hurricanes have won 15 of their past 16 at home against the Panthers, though the lone loss in that stretch came in April and wound up keeping them out of the playoffs.
Former Hurricane Cory Stillman tied it with 17 minutes left in regulation and Vokoun finished with 35 saves for the Panthers.
“Tomas gave us a chance to pick up a point tonight,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “If you’re only going to give up one (goal in regulation) on the road, that’s pretty good goaltending.”
Cam Ward stopped 19 shots in helping Carolina’s Paul Maurice get the better of DeBoer, his best friend, in their first coaching matchup. The Hurricanes have picked up points in six of their seven games since they rehired the coach who led them from 1995-2003.
One reason has been Carolina’s improved production on the power play. The Hurricanes have scored six goals in 30 chances with the man advantage in their past four outings, after slipping near the bottom of the NHL after the six-game scoreless streak two weeks ago that precipitated Peter Laviolette’s firing.
“I thought we moved the puck better at times, and if you can (convert) 25 per cent, you’d be a very happy hockey team,” Maurice said. “As soon as that confidence starts to go, it’ll get better.”
And just as Montreal did two nights earlier, the Panthers seemed eager to give the Hurricanes several early opportunities to work out their kinks. Carolina had three of its four power-play chances in the first period.
“I felt we got better as the game went on,” DeBoer said. “We figured it out after the first period. We simplified our game. We stayed out of the penalty box. We gave ourselves a chance.”
The early pressure the Hurricanes put on Vokoun paid off late in the first when Williams put them up 1-0 on their third chance with the extra man.
With pivotal penalty-killer Jay Bouwmeester in the box for hooking, Williams parked to Vokoun’s right, took a feed from Whitney and stuffed the puck past the goalie for his first goal since November 2007. Williams missed 43 games late last season after knee surgery, and a torn Achilles’ tendon cost him the first two months of this season.
“I had to do a double take,” Williams said. “I know it’s not going to be the quickest turnaround for me, but I’m working my way there and working hard. Soon, I’ll be the same guy I was before I got injured.”
Stillman tied it at one-all early in the third period after a Hurricanes turnover at the blue line. As his two-minute holding minor concluded, he flew out of the penalty box, found himself on a breakaway and beat Ward with a backhand – giving him two goals in two games this season at the RBC Center, the arena where in 2006 he raised the Stanley Cup.
“For taking the penalty early in the period, I got rewarded,” Stillman said.
Notes: The Hurricanes activated D Anton Babchuk (elbow) from injured reserve, but he didn’t play for the fourth straight game. … Booth, Florida’s leading goal scorer, returned after missing seven games with a shoulder injury. He entered with two goals and an assist this season against Carolina. … Brind’Amour assisted on Corvo’s goal, giving him 700 for his career. He’s one of four active players with 400 goals and 700 assists for his career, joining Joe Sakic, Mark Recchi and Mike Modano. “No one knew about it in here, so it’s not that big a deal,” Brind’Amour quipped. … Florida C Kamil Kreps has points in three straight games.