<
>

'Canes shut out Panthers, stay perfect at home

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes have proven they
can come back from any deficit.

This time, however, there was no need for a dramatic comeback.

Rod Brind'Amour and Niclas Wallin scored third-period goals
Saturday night to lead the Hurricanes past the Florida Panthers
2-0, extending the best start in franchise history and tying the
franchise mark with their seventh straight win.

Eric Staal added an assist to extend his scoring streak to eight
games for the Hurricanes, who improved to 7-0 at home and extended
the team record for consecutive home wins. Martin Gerber finished
with 27 saves to earn his second shutout this season.

Carolina improved to 10-2-1 and earned a point for the 10th
straight game. The seven consecutive wins tied the franchise record
set in 1985 by the Hartford Whalers.

"It was key for us to get out of the gate for a lot of reasons,
not just because we want to cement our position," Brind'Amour
said. "It's attention-wise and creating a buzz for hockey being
back. There's a lot of things we had to do, and I think we've done
that with a great start. And we have to maintain that now."

The win reversed Carolina's trend of having to rally from an
early deficit, something it had perfected recently. The Hurricanes
rallied from two-goal deficits for four straight games, and twice
rallied from one-goal deficits in their 4-3 win against Toronto on
Thursday.

The Hurricanes had no trouble finding the back of the net during
those games, scoring 24 goals. This time, they had to keep
pressuring the Panthers until they finally broke through against
Roberto Luongo.

"It seems like we're winning them in different ways,"
Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We couldn't solve him and
a lot of times things can go south at that point. But the guys
stuck with it, and they deserve a ton of credit because we came out
in the third period and got the job done."

It was just the latest strong third-period performance from
Carolina, which has outscored opponents 24-8 in the final 20
minutes this season.

The Panthers closed a six-game road trip created by Hurricane
Wilma last month, which forced the postponement of their Oct. 29
home game against Washington. Florida opened the trip with a 4-3
overtime win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25, but had gone 0-2-2 in the
four games since.

The Panthers had their chances, controlling play with 16 shots
in the second period while killing off the Hurricanes' first five
power-play chances. But they couldn't beat Gerber to give Luongo
(27 saves) any room for error.

"He made some big stops," Staal said. "I thought we played
well from the start, all the way through. We kept after him."

That attitude finally paid off when Brind'Amour broke through
with the Hurricanes on a power play midway through the third.

Brind'Amour sent a pass from the right side to Oleg Tverdovsky,
who sent the puck back to the Hurricanes captain. Brind'Amour
slapped the puck past Luongo, who was partially shielded by a
tussle in front of the crease, for the 1-0 lead at 11:29 of the
period.

A few minutes later, Carolina added an insurance goal. Staal and
Erik Cole couldn't score on a 2-on-1 opportunity a few minutes
later, but Staal pulled the puck out and sent it cross-ice to
Wallin for a goal from the left side at 14:35.

Florida, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

"We were in the game, we had our chances," Florida coach
Jacque Martin said. "But it boiled down to a power-play goal late
in the third. ... We didn't generate anything on our power play."

Game notes
Carolina has not lost in regulation since a 3-2 loss at the
New York Islanders on Oct. 8. ... Staal has 26 points on 11 goals
and 15 assists. ... Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley left the game
with a groin injury. He's listed as day-to-day. ... Florida
defenseman Sean Hill and left wing Martin Gelinas are both former
Hurricanes players. ... The Panthers next face the New York Rangers
on Wednesday, their first home game since Oct. 20.