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Carolina trailed 4-2 early in the third after Nathan Horton scored on a penalty shot, but Eric Staal, Trevor Letowski and Ray Whitney notched goals in the final 14:25 as the Canes won their third straight 5-4 Saturday night – the team’s best winning streak since back in October.
John Grahame won his first game in two months in relief of Cam Ward, coming up with a series of key saves down the stretch to hold off the Panthers, who along with
With 6.9 seconds left and clinging to a one-goal lead, Staal won a face-off Brind’Amour normally would have taken to the left of Grahame to secure the victory.
“I was comfortable, actually I gritted my teeth a little bit harder,” said Staal, who won seven of eight draws in the third after losing 13 of 19 in the first two periods. “Rod’s the best in the league at it so I had to make sure I was on the top of my game in that instance.”
“That’s what kind of set this game apart for us, a lot of little plays like that. It all kind of added up,” Grahame said.
“It was everybody, everybody had a piece of that win tonight,” added coach Peter Laviolette, whose club is 8-4 in its last 12 games. “That’s what makes it a special win.”
Whitney’s fourth game-winner of the season and 23rd overall came with 4:21 left off a nice backhanded pass from newly-acquired defenseman Joe Corvo, who joined the rush in a hard-skating and overwhelming third period by the Canes.
“Before every game in the room here it feels like a playoff game,” said Corvo, who came to the Canes this week from Eastern Conference leading
“We’re not as comfortable here was we were in
Ward, starting his 13th straight game, was pulled with 6:37 left in the second after allowing three goals on just 13 shots, including scores by Horton and Rostislav Olesz five minutes apart to give
Ah, the third period -- also known as
“I didn’t think we quit the whole night,” said Staal, who scored his 29th. “We’ve competed the last few games and it’s nice to see. With some guys out of the lineup it’s going to take that extra work ethic and right now it’s there.”
Matt Cullen returned to the lineup after missing seven games with vision problems stemming from a hit he suffered on Dec. 26 and played the point on the power play and an occasional fourth-line shift, and Corvo was back after missing one game with the flu.
|Hurricanes left wing Ray Whitney (13) beats Florida Panthers center Nathan Horton (16) to shoot the puck past goalie Tomas Vokoun (29) for the go-ahead goal during the third period in Raleigh on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)|
Carolina got its first goal 3:21 into the first period from an unlikely source as Wade Brookbank circled from behind the net and stuffed the puck past Tomas Vokoun on just his second shot in 19 games this season.
The Canes quickly surrendered the lead three minutes later when a shot from Brett McLean appeared to tick off the skate of defenseman Glen Wesley and leaked off the inside of one of Ward’s pads.
Ward didn’t make his first save of the period until there was 4:32 left, but had to make a couple nice stops on a pair of late
“It’s getting down the crunch time here and the guys really turned on the jets,” Grahame said. “We knew they played last night and we kept attacking, attacking, attacking.”
“You’ve got to like it, we’re playing teams we need to beat to make sure that we’re in the playoffs and first in our division,” added Staal. “We’re all looking forward to competing over the next month and then go from there.”
NOTES: Brookbank’s last goal came on Oct. 21, 2006. The