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Brind'Amour scores OT winner in Hurricanes 5-4 win over Panthers

Rod Brind'Amour scored on a breakaway with 24 seconds left in overtime, and the Hurricanes scored the final four goals of their season-ending 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers after the second period Saturday night.

"It was fun hockey there at the end," Brind'Amour said. "It just kind of felt good, and we were kind of going for it. I'm glad at least for the people that were here, we were able to put a smile on their face, because they supported us all year - and they didn't have a lot to cheer about."

Brind'Amour started the decisive sequence when he took the puck from Florida's Bryan Allen at the blue line. The Carolina captain skated in alone on Craig Anderson and slipped the puck between his legs to seal the Hurricanes' fourth overtime victory of the season against Florida.

David Tanabe scored twice, and Erik Cole and Eric Staal added third-period goals for Carolina, which trailed 4-1 entering the third but for the second time this season erased a three-goal lead by Florida in the final 20 minutes.

"For them, being behind three goals is nothing," Panthers centre Olli Jokinen said.

Jokinen scored his team-leading 39th goal and added two assists. Ville Peltonen also had a goal and two assists for Florida, which was denied its first victory at Carolina since 2002.

"It's pretty much the same story, the last couple of times we've played against this team," Jokinen said. "They didn't have a chance, the first 40 minutes, but they really wanted to bounce back. That's why they won the Cup last year."

Martin Gelinas scored his 300th career goal, Jay Bouwmeester also scored and Nathan Horton added two assists for the Panthers.

Allen could've won it in overtime. He was awarded a penalty shot with 2:23 left in overtime after Ray Whitney was called for hooking on a breakaway, but his shot went right into John Grahame's pads.

Grahame finished with 35 saves for the Hurricanes, while Anderson stopped 48 shots for Florida. Carolina's 53 shots were the franchise's most since relocating from Hartford.

"It doesn't matter how many saves you make," Anderson said. "It's all about the next one."

The Hurricanes seemed finished entering the final 20 minutes of their season, before Tanabe started the comeback by snapping the puck past Anderson about five minutes into the period.

Cole then made it a one-goal game with about 7½ minutes left and Staal tied it with 4:23 left, tapping the rebound of Whitney's blast from the point past Anderson.

"The first two periods were terrible. It was not fun," defenceman Mike Commodore said. "It just kind of dawned on us - I know it did on me anyway - that this is it. It's 20 minutes left and that's the end of the year."

That wasn't the case a year ago, when third-period magic helped the Hurricanes find a late-season groove that carried them to their first Cup. With only pride on the line this time, Carolina finally seemed to rediscover that rhythm.

"It was more characteristic of how we played last year in terms of just going, and whatever the consequences were, we were willing to accept it," Whitney said. "I don't think we played enough like that throughout most of the season. At times, we did and at times - for the most part - we didn't."

Carolina entered having lost five of six and three straight, and last year's Cup champion was playing its second game since being eliminated from the playoff chase. But when it counted most, the Hurricanes got aggressive, outshooting Florida 29-15 in the third period and in overtime.

"The guys have a lot of pride. They're competitors," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's hard to say 'End it on a good note,' because no matter how you end it tonight, it's not a good note. But they went out and played the game, and competed with all they had, and came back and got a win."

It was a matchup of two teams whose playoff hopes were long since dashed, and the Hurricanes won their seventh straight over Florida. The Panthers were looking for their first win on Carolina's ice since a 2-0 victory on Dec. 6, 2002.

Jokinen's 39 goals were the third-best total in team history and the most by a Florida player since Pavel Bure set the team record with 59 in 2000-01.

Notes: Florida previously blew a three-goal lead to Carolina and lost 6-4 on Jan. 11. ... Staal's assist on Cole's goal was his 200th NHL point. ... Whitney was named the Hurricanes' MVP in a vote of the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. ... The Panthers had earned only one point in their previous 11 visits to Raleigh. ... Carolina won seven of eight meetings with Florida.



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