RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -The last time the Carolina Hurricanes were this hot, they were rolling through the playoffs last spring and winning their first Stanley Cup.
Their current streak is still alive largely because they went back to the trademark of that Cup run - dominance of the third period.
Rod Brind'Amour scored the go-ahead goal 50 seconds into the third, and the Carolina Hurricanes shook off a sluggish first 40 minutes to beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 Tuesday night for their season-best fifth straight victory.
"Our game is getting in there, getting on the forechecking, and if we do it enough, by the third period you can wear teams down a little bit," Brind'Amour said. "That's where we've had success in the past. I think tonight the third period was pretty good - we were in their end a lot. You could see they weren't quite getting to the pucks. That's what you need."
Scott Walker, Cory Stillman and Justin Williams also scored, and Eric Staal added two assists for Carolina. Williams' goal was his team-leading 18th of the season and seventh in seven games.
"Right now everything I seem to be shooting is finding a hole here or there," Williams said.
Two weeks ago, the Hurricanes lost their fifth straight game to fall to one game above .500. Their current surge has helped them recapture some of the confidence that carried them to the title in June.
"We're never satisfied with mediocrity," Williams said. "Before this streak, we were right along that border of the playoff bubble, and that's not what this team's about. This team's about Stanley Cup contention. The last five games, we've shown that sometimes we're not at our best, but when we are at our best, we're one of the best teams in the league."
Nathan Horton scored two goals for Florida, and his second cut it to 3-2 with 4:11 remaining.
The Panthers pulled goalie Alexander Auld in the final minute, but Stillman made them pay by scoring an empty-net goal on a backhand from the blue line while falling down with 40 seconds left.
Cam Ward made 18 of his 25 saves in the second period for the Hurricanes, who won their seventh straight home game against Florida.
"You're messing with fire and rolling the dice when you're not at your best, and for two periods, we were not at our best," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We came out with a purpose in the third."
Horton extended his points streak to five games for the Panthers, who haven't won at the RBC Center since a 2-0 victory on Dec. 6, 2002. Auld stopped 26 shots.
"Their counter is so quick - you play solid for the most part and a turnover or a mistake, they end up in your net," Auld said.
Brind'Amour's goal came in the opening seconds of the third period during a 4-on-3 power play.
Ray Whitney passed to Staal in the right circle, and his shot grazed Brind'Amour, who was positioned near the goal. Officials upheld the score after a brief review, giving the Carolina captain his 12th goal of the season and making it 2-1.
"They caught a bit of a lucky bounce - the puck was going wide and it hit Brind'Amour's foot there, and that's the way it goes," Auld said.
Walker then made it a two-goal game with about 7 minutes remaining when he beat Auld high with a short wrist shot from the slot.
Horton gave Florida an early 1-0 lead when he skated in from the right side and beat Ward with a wrist shot on just his team's second shot on goal.
"We just needed to get as many shots as we can against him," Horton said. "Eventually, one of them is going in."
The Panthers then clamped down on defense, holding the Hurricanes without a shot for an 11-minute stretch to close the first period.
Williams tied it at 1 with about 5 minutes left in the second. Williams skated down the left side, caught Auld watching Staal approaching from the right and snapped a short wrist shot past him, extending his points streak to eight games.
"I said, 'Why not get a shot on net? We're down a goal,"' Williams said. "Fortunately it went in."
Notes: Carolina leads the season series 2-1. ... The Hurricanes improved to 8-0-1 in their last nine at home against Florida. ... Horton now has 100 career points. ... Tempers flared midway through the second period when Carolina's Craig Adams and the Panthers' Steve Montador fought near the boards.
|Nathan Horton (12) ASST: Bryan Allen (8), Steve Montador (4)|
1 - 0 FLA
|Justin Williams (18) ASST: Niclas Wallin (5), Eric Staal (16)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Rod Brind'Amour (12) ASST: Eric Staal (17), Ray Whitney (26)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Scott Walker (12) ASST: Trevor Letowski (3), Anton Babchuk (8)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Nathan Horton (13) ASST: Olli Jokinen (25), Jay Bouwmeester (12)|
3 - 2 CAR
|EN - Cory Stillman (1) ASST: Glen Wesley (6)|
4 - 2 CAR
|Ruslan Salei Holding against Eric Staal|
|Joel Kwiatkowski Hooking against Eric Belanger|
|Jozef Stumpel Hooking against Glen Wesley|
|Justin Williams Cross checking against Jay Bouwmeester|
|Jay Bouwmeester Slashing against Justin Williams|
|Eric Staal Holding the stick against Branislav Mezei|
|Steve Montador Fighting (maj) against Craig Adams|
|Craig Adams Fighting (maj) against Steve Montador|
|Eric Belanger Hooking against Jozef Stumpel|
|Chris Gratton Hooking against Eric Staal|
|Erik Cole Tripping against Mike Van Ryn|
|Nathan Horton Slashing against Rod Brind'Amour|