Whitney lifts Hurricanes over Panthers

SUNRISE, Florida (AP) — Ray Whitney made sure that an ugly game
had a good-looking finish.

Whitney scored 1:37 into overtime to lead the surging Carolina
Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday

“It certainly wasn’t a game you’d try to sell a new market on,
that’s for sure,” Whitney said. “We took the skill out of it.
We’re proud of what we did. Obviously the point helps them, but
the two points certainly helps us.”

Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Eaves also scored for Carolina, which
improved to 8-1-2 in its last 11 games and moved past Pittsburgh
into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina won four straight in six days.

Jay Bouwmeester and Cory Stillman scored for Florida, which has
lost six of seven. The Panthers tied idle Montreal for eighth in
the East with 81 points. Florida has played one more game.

“It’s better than nothing,” Bouwmeester said of the one point.
“It’s good that we battled back, but we put ourselves in that
position. I guess we’ll take anything, but the extra point would
have been good.”

Cam Ward, in his 22nd consecutive start for Carolina, made 37
saves. Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots.

The Panthers, who went 1-2-2 on their five-game homestand,
welcomed back forward Nathan Horton. Their second-leading goal
scorer had missed six games because of a finger injury.

Whitney scored his 24th goal of the season when he one-timed a
cross-ice feed from Joni Pitkanen inside the left circle.

“You had your best players at the end, Cam Ward and Ray Whitney,
(come through),” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “What a play
for (Whitney). A win on the road against a team that works its
butt off every night, we’re real happy with it.”

Carolina led 2-1 until Stillman tied it with 4:05 left in the
third period during Carolina’s 5-on-3 power play. After Ward
deflected Horton’s pass from the side of the net, the puck was
knocked over to the side during a jam in front. Stillman was
there to put a shot home.

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“We got rewarded for working hard,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer
said. “We played hard tonight right from the first period
through to the end.”

Eaves scored the only goal of the second period at 19:47. After
taking a short pass from Rod Brind’Amour, Eaves skated around
defenseman Karlis Skrastins and lost control of the puck as he
cut to the front of the net. The loose puck went off Eaves’ left
skate and off the leg of the sprawling Vokoun before trickling

The play began after Carolina intercepted Florida’s clearing
attempt just outside the blue line while making a line change.

“I think it could have been either too many men or offside,”
DeBoer said. “We had them for both. Take your choice. That
happens. We got a few of those go our way over the month. That’s
something you have to deal with.”

Ruutu tied it 1-1 at 13:47 of the first period with a power-play
goal. Vokoun stopped Anton Babchuk’s slap shot from the point,
but Ruutu grabbed the rebound as he was skating in from the side
of the net. He skated around Vokoun and flipped the puck into
the top of the net.

“We’re winning some games the ugly way, we’re winning some
pretty games,” Whitney said. We’re winning in a bunch of
different fashions.”

Bouwmeester opened the scoring at 8:30 after Carolina turned
over the puck behind the net. Stillman stole Babchuk’s no-look
backhand pass and fed Bouwmeester in the slot. Bouwmeester beat
Ward with a low wrist shot to the blocker side.

It was Florida’s NHL-leading 44th goal of the season by a
defenseman, setting a team record. The Panthers established the
previous mark during the 1995-96 season when they advanced to
the Stanley Cup finals.

“I think we played hard, we played well,” DeBoer said. “We
played a good hockey game. Ward made some big saves for them at
critical times. It was a hard-fought point. Maybe we deserved
better, but that’s the way it goes this time of year.”