So far this week, Dwyer has taken his opening and run with it.
Dwyer scored Carolina’s first goal for the second time in as many nights as the Hurricanes built a three-goal lead and were able to stave off the Florida Panthers 3-2 Saturday night.
In addition to Dwyer’s strong play up front, Cam Ward returned to the net after being pulled following five goals in less than two periods in a 6-3 loss to the Panthers on Friday night. The star goalie rebounded in fine fashion, stopping 28 of 30 shots, including a point-blank attempt by Michael Frolik with about seven minutes left, with Florida on the power play and the Canes clinging to a one-goal lead.
“We needed to respond and come up with a big effort, and personally for myself I had a bit of a rough night last night with things not going as I hoped, but it was a good thing to be able to redeem ourselves within 24 hours and we got off to a good start with some insurance. It definitely helps when you’ve got a lead.”
The Canes moved over .500 at home (8-7-2) for the first time since early October en route to their third straight victory at the RBC Center, outscoring those three opponents a combined 13-8.
“We’re starting to build some confidence at home but it’s going to be critical that we dominate at home in terms of wins, and then do everything we can to find a way to play that kind of game on the road,” said coach Paul Maurice, noting the team’s 1-13-4 road mark.
Jay Harrison’s strong outlet pass to Tom Kostopoulos midway through the second period helped set up a trailing Sergei Samsonov for a 3-0 Carolina lead as the Panthers showed little offensive spark through 30 minutes, generating just nine shots on Ward.
But the lead narrowed with a Florida goal just 2:17 into the third and some more nervous moments when the Panthers converted on a 5-on-3 goal with 7:21 remaining.
But Carolina clamped down on defense for a third straight home game to close out the deal. The only mistake Dwyer seemed to make was attempting an unselfish pass to Matt Cullen late when he had a chance to bury a shot into an open net in the waning moments.
“What we’re starting to see is a little confidence with the puck, and trying some things,” Maurice said of Dwyer, who was leading the Albany River Rats in goals when he was most recently recalled. “We’re going to work on the empty nets with him, but in his defense, that’s the first experience for him.
“He had just about a point a game in the AHL and now he’s starting to get a comfort level playing with a guy like Cullen because they both have very good speed. You’re starting to see what he’s capable of doing every night -- certainly creating some chances.”
The Canes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first after a slow-paced opening 10 minutes as Cullen played a key role in both scores.
Cullen dumped the puck behind the Florida net and chased after it as Dwyer was taken out of the play. Once corralling the rubber behind the net, Cullen connected on a centering pass to Dwyer, who recovered from the Keith Ballard hard hit to score his second in as many nights against the Panthers.
“It’s something I do. I like to take the hit and then try and beat guys out to the net,” Dwyer said. “Cullen was able to find me backdoor and I had an open net.”
A little more than two minutes later and with Florida on the power play, Cullen broke out along the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Dwyer, faked a pass and then beat Scott Clemmensen on the short side for his second shorthanded goal of the season.
“We’re been preaching to shoot it and I was just kind of going to the net, trying to draw the D, kind of being a decoy and Matt is a shooter so I kind of figured he would shoot it,” Dwyer said of the team’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season.
It was the second straight home game in which the Canes took a commanding first-period lead. Carolina scored three times in the opening 13 minutes against Dallas in a 5-3 victory Wednesday night.
Ray Whitney failed to make it 3-0 in the first period on this night when his shot with three seconds left went between the legs of Clemmensen but hit the post.
NOTES: The Canes improved to 28-11-3 all-time at home against the Panthers. … Tim Gleason and Niclas Wallin sat out again on defense with upper body injuries. … Cullen now has 10 career shorthanded goals. … Whitney’s assist on Carolina’s first goal gave him 300 points with the Canes in 325 games … Eric Staal’s four-game point streak was snapped … Carolina entered the game 1-12-2 in back-to-back games … With Florida’s two goals the Canes have now been outscored 52-25 in the third period.