- The Carolina Hurricanes walloped the Florida Panthers 6-2 for their first divisional win of the season. Riley Nash (1g, 2a), Jussi Jokinen (2g, 1a) and Alexander Semin (3a) each had three goals in the Canes’ second straight victory. The win improves the team to 11-8-1, and they remain atop the Southeast Division with 23 points. “I think our guys showed that they were ready to play. They knew the importance of tonight’s game,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “I liked their focus. We came out with good intensity, and we’re carried it through. So we’re pretty pleased with our effort and performance tonight.”
- Outscore 22-8 in the first period this season, the Hurricanes have been searching for a strong start, and they found it tonight. The Canes potted three first-period goals in a span of 3:05 and held a 3-1 lead heading into the locker room after 20 minutes. It was just the second time this season the team has held a lead after one period; Canes led 1-0 in Ottawa on Feb. 7 after one period, ultimately winning 1-0.
- Jokinen has been fighting to break through on the scoresheet all season, and he did so in a big way tonight, netting two goals in the first period within 3:05 of each other. He added an assist in the second period, marking his first three point game since March 10, 2012 in a 4-3 Carolina win in Winnipeg (1g, 2a). Jokinen said after the game that moving to the wing has perhaps put him more in a scoring position. Muller said he had a chat with the 29-year-old forward this morning. “The message this morning was just play a good solid wing,” he said. “The breaks will come, and the offense will come. I didn’t know it would happen that quick. That’s big to get him going.”
- Riley Nash is quietly excelling in his role as the third-line center. After setting up Jokinen twice in the first period, he tapped into his goal-scoring abilities in the second. On one rush, he dangled around a Florida defenseman, clanking a shot off the post. Minutes later, on a two-on-one rush with Patrick Dwyer, he finished off a nice pass for his first-career NHL goal. It was also his first career multi-point game, and he earned first-star honors. “Juice was going right off the gates, and Patty Dwyer was skating, so they made it real easy on me,” Nash said. “It was just one night, so I’m hoping to keep it going.”
- Semin, now the team leader in assists with 15, posted a trio of helpers tonight, finding Jiri Tlusty for a goal and Eric Staal for two. The last time Semin recorded three assists in a game was April 9, 2010 against Winnipeg in a 5-2 win for Washington.
- Scott Clemmensen entered the game cold at the 2:22 mark of the first period when Jose Theodore went down with what was likely a right knee injury. After Jokinen blocked a shot, he raced off on a 2-on-1 with Patrick Dwyer to his left. Theodore made the initial save, but when he slid over to stop the rebound chance (which never happened because Dwyer was hooked by Jerred Smithson), he slumped down. He was helped off the ice by the training staff. Clemmensen was sharp early, making five saves on the ensuing power play, but the Canes got after him quickly following the man-advantage.
- The only negative to report from a very positive effort from the Canes is the lower-body injury to Joni Pitkanen. He did not return to the bench after the first intermission, and Muller had no update after the game on the Pitkanen, who had missed seven games prior with a lower-body injury.
- The Canes head to South Florida to round out this back-to-back, home-and-home set. The chipiness of tonight’s game could very will spillover into tomorrow’s tilt, where the Canes know they will face a hungry Panthers’ squad. “We wanted to make a statement this game that these are the games, these are the teams we need to beat to make the playoffs,” Jokinen said. “The best way to make the playoffs is to win your division and get home ice. That’s our goal.”
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Carolina Hurricanes finally found their way to the top of the Southeast Division, and they did it with their first win of the season against a divisional opponent.
The long-awaited win over a division rival put the Hurricanes alone on top of the Southeast.
"If you're going to be on top of your division, you have to beat the teams in your division," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We haven't had success on that part of it this year. I think our guys knew that this is a big weekend and the importance of it. I think it showed in their play."
Coming into the game, Carolina was 0-5 against its Southeast rivals and 10-3-1 against the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Cam Ward made 22 saves for the Hurricanes, who won their second straight at home. Carolina had lost six of seven against the Panthers.
"We wanted to make a kind of statement game that these are the teams we need to beat to make the playoffs," Jokinen said.
Filip Kuba and Shawn Matthias scored for the Panthers, who have only two wins in 11 games.
Florida goalie Jose Theodore left the game 2:22 into the first period after he appeared to injure his right leg. Scott Clemmensen replaced him and made 27 saves.
Theodore was hurt during a 2-on-1 rush by the Hurricanes. He crumpled to the ice after he kicked out his right pad to stop Jokinen. The Panthers said Theodore, who struggled with knee trouble much of last season, sustained an undisclosed lower body injury.
"It's going to be a while," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "He was pretty sore on the ice, and it wasn't much better off (it)."
Florida also lost Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (lower body) during the game.
"You can blame it on injuries," Dineen said. "To me, that's the ultimate cop-out We were not prepared to play this game. We had a big divisional game against our first-place team - we could have reeled them in. It looked like from the drop of the puck we weren't prepared."
Carolina got Joni Pitkanen back in the lineup Saturday after he missed seven games because of a lower body injury. But he left the game after just one period and didn't return.
The Hurricanes jumped on Clemmensen about 4 minutes after Theodore's injury, scoring three goals in 3:05.
Jokinen got things started with a quick wrist shot from the left circle that beat Clemmensen over his glove hand.
A little more than 2 minutes later, Semin found Tlutsy in the high slot for a wrist shot that caromed in off the post.
Jokinen added his second goal less than a minute later when Nash found him wide open in the slot. Jokinen's wrist shot slipped through Clemmensen's pads.
Matthias got Florida back within two goals before the end of the period, but Nash's first career goal built Carolina's lead back to three early in the second. Nash finished off a pass from Patrick Dwyer on a 2-on-1 break to make it 4-1.
Staal scored the Hurricanes' final two goals off passes from Semin.
The teams will meet again on Sunday night in Florida.
"Any time you can beat a divisional opponent it's huge," Faulk said. "It was nice to get our first divisional win this year, and it came at a good time."
NOTES: Carolina's Tim Brent sat out because of a lower body injury. ... Panthers C Stephen Weiss was ejected in the third period after fighting Justin Faulk. Weiss was also given a penalty for elbowing on the play.