RALEIGH, N.C. – Wojtek Wolski was a member of the New York Rangers when he woke up on Saturday morning. By the end of the day, he was a hero for the Florida Panthers.
Wolski scored the tying goal with 1:47 left in regulation, setting up Stephen Weiss’ clincher in the shootout as the Panthers earned a 3-2 comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
It was the third straight road win for Florida. Carolina took its second straight shootout loss at home.
“I was trying to feel (Wolski) into the game there,” said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, a former captain of the Hurricanes. “He’s a valuable asset. He has a skill set we were looking for right now, and obviously it paid off for us. There’s no better way to introduce yourself to your teammates than to go out and score a big goal.”
Wolski found out he was going to the Panthers around 12:15 p.m., following the Rangers’ morning skate in New York. He arrived in Raleigh about five hours later and was ready for the 7 p.m. start.
“We obviously needed those two points,” said Wolski, obtained for minor league defenceman Michael Vernace and a third-round pick in next season’s draft. “The system is similar to some of the systems I’ve seen in the past, so it was easy to kind of jump in. I liked how fast and how skilled the guys are, especially the ‘D.’ They jump in the play all the time, which is nice.”
Tomas Fleischmann scored the Panthers’ first goal at 13:58 of the third after Justin Faulk and Jussi Jokinen had given Carolina a two-goal lead.
“Our guys are playing as hard as they can,” said Carolina coach Kirk Muller, whose team is 0-for-6 in shootouts this season. “I think, as a coach, I cannot ask more from our guys. We have young guys, and I think they’re giving it everything they’ve got right now.”
Jose Theodore made 26 saves for the Panthers, 1-3-1 in their past five games. Carolina’s Justin Peters started for the third straight game, in place of injured regular Cam Ward, and stopped 42 shots.
Mikael Samuelsson also scored in the shootout for Florida. Jeff Skinner had a goal in the tiebreaker for Carolina.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal extended his point streak to eight games and his assist streak to seven, when he helped set up Faulk’s first-period goal. Carolina is 9-0-6 in its last 15 games in which it scored first.
Carolina, outshot 19-9 in the first period, took the lead on its first power play at 18:01 when Faulk’s blast from the high slot beat Theodore over his left shoulder.
Jokinen made it 2-0 at 17:32 of the second. He took Skinner’s pass from behind the net in the low slot and flipped the puck over Theodore’s right shoulder.
Fleischmann scored his 20th of the season at 13:58 of the third, with an assist from Kris Versteeg.
Wolski tied it 2-2 when he beat Peters from the right circle.
NOTES: Hurricanes RW Patrick Dwyer sustained an undisclosed lower body injury in the first period and didn’t return. … Carolina C Jiri Tlusty had a nine-game point streak end. … Dineen was a 1982 first-round draft pick of the Hartford Whalers, who became the Hurricanes in 1997. . Florida won the two previous meetings between the teams. … Hurricanes forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose both sat out a fifth straight game because of undisclosed upper body injuries. … The Panthers were without C John Madden (four games, lower body) and C Marcel Goc (two games, lower body).