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McLean's winner leads Panthers to 5-4 victory over Hurricanes

SUNRISE, Fla. - Brett McLean's hand is all better. With McLean back on the ice, the Florida Panthers are looking better, too.

McLean scored the winner, and the Panthers moved above .500 for the first time this season with a 5-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Panthers (17-16-1) are now three points behind Southeast Division-leading Carolina.

Stephen Weiss, Jozef Stumpel, Olli Jokinen and Radek Dvorak scored for the Panthers, who won their third straight. Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves.

"We're a confident group right now," Jokinen said. "There's no reason to stop now."

McLean's wraparound goal at 13:06 put Florida ahead 5-4 and was his second goal in three games after missing 15 with a broken right hand.

"It just feels good to contribute," McLean said. "It's hard when you're out. You feel out of touch. It's nice to get back here and pitch in."

Ray Whitney, Cory Stillman, Erik Cole and Andrew Ladd had goals for Carolina.

Florida took a short-lived lead 4:10 into the third on Weiss' wrist shot into the upper right corner of the net. Just 29 seconds later, Carolina tied it 4-4 on Whitney's slap shot from in front.

Stumpel's goal tied it 3-3 at 18:38 of the second. His wrist shot from above the right circle beat John Grahame, who made 36 saves, on the right side. It was Stumpel's second goal in as many games after going 15 without one.

"There were a couple of miniature golf goals like that tonight," Grahame said. "It seems like they had the bounces going for them."

Florida closed to 3-2 on Jokinen's goal at 5:14. His backhander from the bottom of the right circle went across the crease, hit the post and caromed into the net.

"It was a big win," Jokinen said. "The way we played in the first period was embarassing. We had a little bit of luck there in the third and got two points."

Carolina stretched its lead to 3-1 on Stillman's goal and seemed on the verge of breaking the game open. Rod Brind'Amour pushed the puck out from behind the net into the slot and Stillman poked it past Vokoun on the stick side at 16:19 of the first.

"We let one slip away tonight, especially after being up 3-1 in the first," Stillman said. "They worked hard for 60 minutes and that was the difference."

Carolina took a 2-1 lead at 9:25 when Cole's wrist shot from the corner beat Vokoun.

"We bent but we didn't break," Vokoun said. "Guys are starting to realize their potential."

The Panthers scored first, at 5:01. Rostislav Olesz took a shot from the left circle that glanced off Dvorak's leg and into the net.

Carolina answered about 90 seconds later with a similar goal. Scott Walker's shot from the left circle hit Ladd and went past Vokoun to tie it.

"We knew the game was marked on their side," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "We knew they'd be ready to play. They're on a bit of a roll right now."

Notes: Carolina's Craig Adams missed Thursday's game to serve the first of a two-game suspension for a high-sticking penalty against Toronto on Tuesday. ... David Tanabe and Chad LaRose both sustained concussions Tuesday and are day to day. ... Florida's David Booth was scratched with a bruised knee. ... Jokinen has at least one point in nine of his past ten games.


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