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Chris Higgins breaks tie, Panthers go on to beat Hurricanes 7-4 in home-and-home opener

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

SUNRISE, Fla. - This time, the shot-happy Florida Panthers were right on target.

Two nights after losing to Atlanta despite a franchise-record 55 shots, the Panthers took advantage of their 50 shots against Carolina in a 7-4 victory Friday night in the first of a home-and-home set.

"We played a lot in their end," said Chris Higgins, who broke a tie late in the second period with his third goal of the season and finished with eight shots. "We certainly put up a lot of shots and they went in for us tonight."

The 105 shots are the highest two-game total in Panthers history, and they also recorded back-to-back games with 50 or more shots for the first time.

"I can't explain it," coach Pete DeBoer said. "Guys are working hard offensively. They're working hard on the forecheck, being a tenacious team to play against and we're getting rewarded for that and we have to keep that up."

Stephen Weiss added two goals, including an empty-netter that was the Panthers' 50th shot, had an assist and finished with a game-high nine shots on goal.

David Booth, Mike Santorelli, Marty Reasoner and Michael Frolik also scored for Florida, and defenceman Bryan Allen had a career-high three assists.

Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun was pulled only 10:49 into the first period after giving up two goals. Scott Clemmensen replaced him and ended up with 23 saves.

"Funny game, you know," Clemmensen said. "A lot of funny bounces, scoring chances both ways. It's not much fun being a goalie in those type of games."

Erik Cole, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov scored for Carolina, and Cam Ward stopped 43 shots.

"It wasn't a particularly well-played hockey game from either team's point of view," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "But they were better than we were."

The teams will meet again Saturday night in Carolina.

Down 5-4 in the third period, Carolina had a great opportunity when the Panthers were called for two minor penalties at the same time.

But Florida held Carolina without a shot on the power play until Reasoner drew a holding penalty with 21 seconds left in the two-man advantage.

"Obviously it was a key point in the game where we had to buckle down," Reasoner said. "I think we did a good job of trying to take away what they were trying to do."

The failed 5-of-3 was part of an 0-for-7 night for Carolina's power play.

"We were fortunate to have a chance to take control of the game with a 5-on-3 late in the third and our power play let us down there," Cole said. "That's the way it goes, you can't take nights off in this league and expect to be successful."

Higgins made it 4-3 with 3:17 left in the second period when he took a centring pass from Dvorak and beat Ward to the stick side with a wrist shot that bounced off the post.

Reasoner increased the lead to 5-3 at 2:26 of the third when he one- timed Dvorak's pass from behind the net. Samsonov closed the gap to one at 4:47 when he tipped in Jay Harrison's shot from the point.

Frolik restored Florida's two-goal lead at 17:13.

The teams were tied 3-3 after a wild first period.

After Gleason's goal chased Vokoun, Florida's Weiss and Santorelli scored to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Ruutu scored 7 seconds after Santorelli to make it 3-3.

"It was definitely not an easy game behind the bench," DeBoer said. "It seemed like about four games in one, but we got through it with the right result."

NOTES: Florida F Cory Stillman left the game in the first period because of an upper-body injury and did not return. ... Florida D Keaton Ellerby was recalled from Rochester to replace Jason Garrison, who missed the game because of a groin injury. ... The home team won every meeting between the Panthers and Hurricanes last season. ... Carolina F Jeff Skinner, who came in leading all NHL rookies with 10 points, was held without a point. ... Florida established a franchise first by playing its 11th game to start the season without going to overtime. The Panthers went the first 10 without an overtime game during the 1995-96 season.



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