RALEIGH, N.C. – As the Carolina Hurricanes have retreated to the bottom of the NHL standings, they haven’t been shy about giving opportunities to some of their younger players.
Patrick Dwyer made the most of his audition Saturday night, scoring his second goal in two games while working well with linemate Matt Cullen in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“They’re putting me in the position to succeed,” Dwyer said. “But at the same time, I have to keep doing what I do and not veer from what I do.”
Cullen finished with a goal and an assist, and Cam Ward had 28 saves to lead Carolina. Sergei Samsonov had the Hurricanes’ other goal.
Shawn Matthias and Stephen Weiss scored, and Scott Clemmensen made 21 saves for Florida, which nearly rallied from a three-goal deficit. The loss snapped the Panthers’ three-game winning streak and five-game points streak.
“They started quickly,” Weiss said. “We started to come on at the end, but it was too late.”
Dwyer’s opening goal offered an example of his style of play. He took a hit from Florida defenceman Keith Ballard behind the net but kept on plugging, racing out front to clean up Cullen’s wraparound attempt.
Dwyer also had the opening goal in Florida’s 6-3 win over Carolina on Friday night.
“I’ve always liked him as player,” Cullen said. “I think he’s quick and he’s a fun guy to play with.”
Cullen gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead on an odd-man rush when he beat Clemmensen with a wrist shot.
Just before snapping the puck past Clemmensen, Cullen had faked a pass to Dwyer.
“(Dwyer’s) starting to get comfortable playing with different players, playing with Cullen,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “They both have really good speed.”
Samsonov pushed Carolina’s lead to three in the second, taking advantage of a nice cross-ice pass by Tom Kostopoulos. Samsonov received the puck in the slot and snapped it past Clemmensen’s blocker.
Florida got on the scoreboard 2:17 into the third when Jordan Leopold’s clear-in took a funny bounce behind the net and caught Ward out of position. The puck came to Matthias, who was wide open and had no trouble depositing the puck in the empty net.
The Panthers then took advantage of a prolonged two-man advantage late in the third period with Weiss’ goal. After a slap shot from the slot, the puck dribbled to Weiss, who was open at the side of the net and shovelled it past Ward.
While it had its chances, Florida couldn’t complete the rally from there.
It was the Panthers’ sixth game in nine nights.
“I don’t know if it’s a matter of a bad start or the end of a long schedule we didn’t have good legs tonight,” Florida coach Pete DoBoer said. “It’s been a long two months for us here and we just didn’t have it tonight.”
NOTES: Carolina forward Ray Whitney had an assist to earn his 300th point with the Hurricanes. … Carolina beat Florida 7-2 in October for the Hurricanes’ most-lopsided win of the season. … Carolina has been outscored 52-25 in the third period this season.