SUNRISE, Fla. – Tuomo Ruutu was humble in describing his role in the Carolina Hurricanes’ comeback victory over the Florida Panthers.
Ruutu scored two third-period goals and the Hurricanes came from behind to beat the Panthers 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Ruutu’s goals came 1:28 apart as the Hurricanes overcame a 3-0 deficit and earned their first road win over the Panthers in five games. Erik Cole and Jamie McBain also scored, and Justin Peters had 21 saves for Carolina.
Ruutu’s first goal came on a 5-on-3 power play and got the Hurricanes even at 3. He took a pass from Jeff Skinner in front and scored with a wrist shot at 12:20. The game-winner came when Ruutu picked off a pass in front of the crease as Tomas Vokoun was trying to clear the puck. Ruutu redirected the pass back past Vokoun and into the net at 13:48.
“It was just an early Christmas present,” Ruutu said. “If I said I was reading (Vokoun) I would be lying. It was being in the right place at the right time. We haven’t won in this building for so long. It’s a step forward for us.”
Vokoun blamed himself for the loss.
“This is one of the toughest games I’ve lost in my career,” Vokoun said. “There’s no words that can describe it. It was my mistake and you can’t make that mistake at that point in time. I’m disappointed in myself.”
Evgeny Dadonov, Michael Frolik, and Bryan McCabe had goals, and Vokoun made 30 saves for Florida.
Carolina began its comeback in the second period. Skinner made a nifty move near the blue line by passing the puck between the legs of defenceman Mike Weaver, skated around him to regain the puck, and brought it into the Panthers’ zone. His shot was blocked by Vokoun, but Cole grabbed the rebound and put in a wrist shot at 14:39.
The Hurricanes closed to 3-2 at 7:02 of the third on McBain’s first goal of the season.
“It’s inexcusable to lose a lead like that. There’s no sugarcoating it,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “We didn’t get the right plays at the right times from our goaltender on out. We’ve got to find a way to fix it because those things don’t happen to good teams.”
The Panthers scored their first two goals less than two minutes into the game, chasing goalie Cam Ward from the game. The first came 29 seconds in when Shawn Matthias won a faceoff and pushed the puck out to Marty Reasoner, who fed the puck to Dadonov in front. It was the first NHL goal for the 21-year-old Dadonov and the fastest opening goal for the Panthers this season.
Florida went up 2-0 when Chris Higgins passed the puck from the left circle across to Frolik in the right circle. Frolik shot a backhander that beat Ward at 1:42. Ward faced only five shots before being pulled in favour of Peters.
“It’s not his fault, but I hold him to a higher standard,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said of Ward.
The Panthers quickly took advantage of Peters during a 5-on-3 power play when Dennis Wideman sent the puck from the left circle to McCabe above the right circle. McCabe’s slap shot made it 3-0 at 5:16 of the first.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the start we were looking for but it showed a lot of resilience, a lot of character,” Peters said. “You never know what to expect. I’m sitting there, and next thing you know you’re in the net. Sometimes when you don’t see it coming it’s the best way.”
NOTES: Florida C Stephen Weiss earned his 300th assist on Frolik’s goal. … Panthers D Bryan Allen returned after missing nine games because of a foot injury. Higgins returned after a five-game absence caused by a staph infection. … Eric Staal’s assist on Cole’s goal broke a season-high, four-game scoring drought.