Series (Game 3 of 5)

Florida leads 4-1

Game 1: Wednesday, December 4th
Game 2: Friday, December 6th
Game 3: Friday, January 24th
Game 4: Saturday, January 25th
Game 5: Friday, April 4th

Panthers 1

(14-18-8, 45 pts)

Hurricanes 3

(17-23-4, 44 pts)

7:00 PM ET, January 24, 2003

PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

1 2 3 T
FLA 0 0 11
CAR 1 2 03

J. Vasicek (Hurricanes - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

E. Cole (Hurricanes - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

A. Irbe (Hurricanes - G): Saves: 20, Save Pct.: .952

Carolina stops eight-game losing skid

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- It was like old times -- at least last year's Stanley Cup playoffs -- for the Carolina Hurricanes.

 Erik Cole

Erik Cole was all over the ice, Arturs Irbe was making key saves and the Hurricanes were skating and forechecking with precision.

Their play resulted in a 3-1 win Friday night over the Florida Panthers -- snapping an eight-game losing streak.

"The boys played the best game we've seen in a long, long, long, long, long time," Irbe said. "If they keep playing like that we goalies don't have a choice but to make stops and we should be winning.

"I'm very proud of our boys. It's over and now we can start to build."

Nic Wallin and Josef Vasicek scored in a 2½minute span of the second period to key the win and Irbe stopped 20 of 21 shots.

The defending Eastern Conference champions came within a defeat of matching the longest losing streak in franchise history, set in 1983. But Carolina dominated the Panthers from start to finish to get back in the win column for just the second time in 15 games.

"It was sort of getting to the point where you start to wonder what else you need to do in order to win," Irbe said. "Tonight we did everything right and it happened. It's a relief, but we know it's just one game and we have dug ourselves a hole."

The Hurricanes, outscored 15-8 in their last three losses, outshot the Panthers 39-11 through two periods, matching a season-high with 21 in the second to go up 3-0.

Peter Worrell's first goal in 25 games with 6:49 left ruined Irbe's bid for his first shutout of the season.

Like the Hurricanes, the Panthers have been struggling and are 2-7-0-1 in their last 10.

"Well, it was all Carolina," Florida coach Mike Kennan said. "They came out charged up.

"I think we should expect more from our people, but they got momentum early and they dominated the game."

Cole got Carolina on top early with his 14th, and he assisted on Vasicek's third goal in two games with 38 seconds left in the second period.

Wallin scored for the first time in 37 games two minutes earlier when Vasicek won the faceoff and he skated in alone on Roberto Luongo and beat the Florida goalie with a low shot.

Irbe kept the score 1-0 two minutes before Wallin's goal with a sliding pad save on Olli Jokinen.

"As fragile as our mind-set has been lately, it was critical for us to get that save," captain Ron Francis said. "And to get that second goal seemed to open the door for us and give us a little breathing room, which we haven't had a lot of lately."

Irbe took his own play mn stride.

"That's what the game is all about," he said. "Some of the all-time greats have told me it's not how many saves you make, it's when you make them and when you don't make them. Timing is more important sometimes."

Carolina led at the end of the first period for the just the 10th time in 50 games, finally skating like the team that went to the Stanley Cup finals a season ago.

At one point, the Hurricanes were outshooting the Panthers 13-1 and ended the first 20 minutes with a 18-6 advantage and a 1-0 lead after Cole scored on a rebound on the power play five minutes in.

Game notes
Jan Hlavac's assist on the first Carolina goal was his third in two games after going eight games without a point. ... The Panthers have been outscored 57-37 in the second period. ... Irbe was 2-9-2 in his last 13 decisions before beating Florida. ... Carolina also snapped its seven-game home losing streak, getting its first victory in the RBC Center since beating Dallas 1-0 on Dec. 22.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press