RALEIGH, N.C. – Former Carolina Hurricanes netminder Dan Ellis was at the other end, and former forward Jussi Jokinen was also on the ice as they faced their old team at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Both managed to contribute to the Panthers’ 2-0 win over the Hurricanes.
Powered by goals from Brandon Pirri and Dave Bolland, Florida overcame being outshot 27-21 by Carolina and recorded a valuable win.
Carolina keeper Cam Ward finished with 20 saves in the losing effort, while Ellis recorded his first shutout of the season and 15th of his career.
He made only his fourth start for the Panthers since being recalled from San Antonio of the AHL on Mar. 4, and pushed his record to 3-0-1 in that short span.
“It’s another fun building to play in, another familiar place,” Ellis said when talking about returning to Raleigh.
“I’m lookin’ forward to another game.”
Understandable comments from a guy who’s gotten his shot to return to the NHL to fill a big void as Florida’s top two netminders, Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, recover from injury.
The Hurricanes came into the game, 1-3-1 in their last five, while the Panthers were 3-1-1, and fighting for a wildcard playoff spot.
The win allowed them to keep their hopes alive while taking the second of the two teams’ games this season.
Both goalies took center stage throughout the opening period as Ward and Ellis made numerous stops to keep the game scoreless.
Both teams had power play opportunities during the period, but still couldn’t beat either goalie.
Special teams play would eventually make the difference in this one.
Florida finished 1-for-3 with the man-advantage while Carolina went scoreless on the two power plays it had.
Ellis faced successive shots from Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Justin Faulk during the Hurricane’s first man-up sequence, and successfully turned each one away.
To start the second period, Ward made pad saves on Bolland and Willie Mitchell and play continued to flow from end-to-end.
Soon after, Gerbe tried to jam the puck in, but was shoved into Eliis by Pirri and Dmitry Kulikov as both teams were still scoreless with eight minutes to play in the period.
Pirri finally broke the deadlock, scoring his 14th of the season on the power play with 3:40 remaining.
After gaining the zone untouched, he put together a give-and-go with Jimmy Hayes.
Getting the pass back from Hayes, Pirri lifted a backhand shot high towards Ward who managed to get his shoulder on the puck on his near post, but it trickled up, over and into the net and gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Ellis continued to make the difference in keeping Carolina off the score sheet throughout the remainder of the game.
“They played a patient game,” Eric Staal said.
“Our execution could have been better. I didn’t think we moved the puck very well, especially in the second. We got better as we went on, but we needed to get pucks behind their D. I thought we did carry the tempo there, especially in the third, pushin’ for one. We just weren’t able to get it.”
With many pucks being blocked and deflected, if not stopped by Ellis, the Hurricanes maintained puck possession for a majority of the final period.
“It ends up being two or three guys that you gotta’ beat from the point,” Justin Faulk said of trying to get pucks through to beat Ellis.
“They were there, their guys were. Even if we could get it through, they were able to be there to clear the rebounds.”
A Ron Hainsey slap shot hit the right post behind Ellis with 6:30 to play as Carolina stayed in the hunt to tie the game.
Chris Terry hit the other post 90 seconds later on a centering pass from Jordan Staal.
With Ward out of the net with 2:30 to play, Faulk lost the puck in front of his net, but managed to stop Derek MacKenzie’s empty-net attempt to keep the Hurricanes’ hopes of tying the game alive.
“He fanned on it,” Faulk admitted.
It didn’t take much longer for Florida to finalize the game’s scoring.
With Jokinen’s lead pass, Bolland tucked the puck away with 40 seconds remaining.
He carried it across the Carolina blue line before firing it past Faulk into the empty net.
“I thought we had a good push in the third,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“That’s one of our better pushes when we’ve been down. A couple of posts there in the third. I thought we had a good response to being down.”