By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes outshot and outworked the Florida Panthers and earned a 3-1 win at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
It was Carolina’s first win at home since posting an opening-night 5-4 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 7.
Brock McGinn, Derek Ryan, and Justin Williams scored for Carolina while rookie defenseman Roland McKeown earned two assists, his first and second NHL points playing in his second career game.
Vincent Trocheck tallied the lone goal for the Panthers.
“Much closer to how we want to play it; all four lines played real well,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought we got contributions from everybody.”
Both teams put 78 total pucks on Carolina goaltender Scott Darling and and Florida’s Roberto Luongo.
Darling’s 30 saves earned the win, while the long-tenured Luongo accepted the loss playing in his 500th game for the Panthers, as well as passing the legendary Terry Sawchuk to sit third all-time in playing his 972nd NHL game.
“He’s an incredible goalie, I’ve watched him my whole life,” Darling said.
“It’s my third time playing against him and its always pretty cool to play against a guy with all those accolades with the amount of games he’s played. So, it’s pretty cool – something you can tell your kids about – that you played against Roberto Luongo.”
The veteran goalie stymied the Hurricanes throughout the first period as the home side put 20 shots on net, but the Hurricanes eventually wore Luongo and the Panthers defense down and found an opening.
McGinn tucked the puck past Luongo at the 12:17 mark of the second period following a shot from defenseman Noah Hanifin who was set up by a pass from McKeown.
“It feels good,” McKeown said.
“You work your whole life to play in this league. At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line. To be here is really good, and to cherish these opportunities is what I want to do. When you get little steps like that, it feels good.”
The lead was short-lived as Trocheck evened the score just under two minutes later, finishing a give-and-go with Jonathan Huberdeau after Luongo’s touch started the play.
The power-play goal evened the score 1-1 as the teams continued to battle for the lead heading into the third period.
It wasn’t until the midpoint of the period when Ryan batted the puck in from mid-air past Luongo and gave Carolina some breathing room, holding a 2-1 lead with 10:25 remaining.
With a pass from McKeown, Williams put a shot on goal that Luongo stopped, but couldn’t control and allowed Ryan to score his third of the season.
While the Hurricanes finished 0-for-5 on the power play, Peters saw that scoring opportunities were there, and those eventually allowed his team to seize control.
“That’s what happens with your specialty teams, they don’t always have to score on the power play, per se,” he said.
“But, they’ve gotta build momentum, they gotta wear people out, and give you some energy on the bench, and make you feel good about yourself and some confidence.”
Williams finally secured the win for Carolina with an empty-netter with 1:14 left to play as Florida was unable to get any closer.
“Winning teams are able to find that goal,” Ryan noted.
“Tied going into the third, you’ve gotta make sure you get those points and get that big goal, you’ll eventually win. So glad we got that one.”
Though a decisive win was longer in coming than desired, and sitting at 5-5-3 overall, Peters pointed out that there was no time left to waste opportunities.
“We’ve all gotta get on a roll,” he said.
“We’ve gotta get our specialty teams fixed. We’ve gotta get everything fixed. It’s time to dig in. It’s desperation time – we’re well aware of that.”
Notables: In outshooting Florida 48-31, Carolina played its third game this season recording 40 or more shots on goal. The Hurricanes have outshot their opponents in 11 of 13 games this season…With his fifth assist of the season, Hanifin leads all Carolina defensemen in that category to date…Williams’ recorded his third multi-point game of the season and leads all Hurricanes skaters in doing so.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport