RALEIGH, N.C. -- One day after Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford called out forward Alexander Semin, the Russian forward was the difference in Carolina's 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers.
Semin scored off a third-period faceoff to break a 1-1 tie and later beat goaltender Tim Thomas on a shorthanded breakaway. Semin had scored three goals in his previous 24 games, and six in 34 this season.
Rutherford told a local TV station on Friday that Semin needed to find his offensive game.
"With any offensive guy, it's always nice to see them hit the back of the net," said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who set up each of Semin's goals. "You kind of gain your confidence that way."
Carolina could use some confidence; it was coming off consecutive shutout losses. With that in mind, coach Kirk Muller reunited its top line from last season: Staal, Semin and Jiri Tlusty. The three entered the game with 22 goals total.
"For the line to get going like that and get the chemistry back, I think it was a good sign for our hockey team in general," Muller said.
With the Hurricanes struggling to score, Muller is counting on his top players to find the net.
"We're going to be in a lot of tight games," Muller said. "There are guys that are game-breakers and can score that key goal. We have them in our lineup, and we will need them in these games coming up. When your top guys do that, that's the extra little tool you can have."
The Hurricanes threatened to blow the game open in the first period when Florida gave Carolina back-to-back power plays. Carolina generated nine shots over the four minutes, but Thomas was exceptional, stopping several quality chances.
"Our power play was humming it around pretty good," Staal said. "We had some really good chances that you'd like to think most of the time go in. Thomas was pretty solid the whole night."
Carolina scored first at 3:37 of the second period when Riley Nash finished a rebound for his fifth goal of the season. Radek Dvorak started the play by knocking down a clearing attempt at the blue line before putting a shot on net.
"When the puck's there, you just whack it and try to outmuscle the other guy and get to pucks first," Nash said. "At the NHL level, that's where a lot of goals are scored."
Marcel Goc tied the game at 15:05 after Florida put in a hard-working shift in the offensive zone. Jonathan Huberdeau sent a pass across the crease for Goc's ninth of the season. Tomas Kopecky had the second assist.
The Panthers had a four-minute power play early in the period, but looked sloppy and generated two shots. Florida's best opportunity came from Dmitry Kulikov, who hit the left post. The Panthers were 0-for-4, extending a streak to 0-for-32.
"The power play was not very good at times, but we have to be much better," Florida coach Peter Horachek said. "That is an area where we have to take a look at different people or something."
A short time later, Semin found his scoring touch. After Staal won an offensive-zone draw, Semin fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle just inside the far post at 2:31.
Then, with the Hurricanes killing a penalty, Staal found Semin through the neutral zone for a breakaway at 8:57. It was Carolina's NHL-leading ninth shorthanded goal.
"We've got some offensive guys who play on the penalty kill who are capable of putting the puck in the net when we get those looks," Staal said.
Florida closed to 3-2 at 14:21 when Kulikov's shot from the left point went in off Kopecky, but the Panthers couldn't muster the tying goal.
"We created chances to score that we have to bear down on," Horachek said. "Thomas has been outstanding and continues to give us an opportunity to win. Now we have to find a way to push harder in the third and find a way to score that big goal."
Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped 37 shots in his seventh straight start.
Khudobin, who is 7-2-0, spent parts of two seasons as Thomas' understudy with the Boston Bruins. Though Khudobin's style is nothing like Thomas's aggressive play, the Hurricanes goaltender shares a career arc with his close friend. Each bounced around the minor leagues before establishing himself in the NHL.
"He had a pretty hard time getting here," Khudobin said. "He said to himself, 'I'm going to get to this level and I'm going to earn the trust of the people around me.' That's the best thing I've picked up from him."
Khudobin said the long road to the NHL has been the topic of many previous shared meals. But when they met for dinner Friday night, they kept the shop talk to a minimum.
"We didn't talk about hockey and our teams," he said. "We just talked about goalie stuff [and] where we can do better."
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