The Carolina Hurricanes kept pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race by scoring a 2-1 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at the National Car Rental Center. Jeff O’Neill scored two goals with the game-winner coming at 2:28 of the overtime session and Arturs Irbe made 18 saves as the Hurricanes outshot the Panthers by a 32-19 margin. Ron Francis continued his outstanding play with assists on both of O’Neill’s goals. With the victory, Carolina improved its record to 26-28-9 and its point total to 61 points. Carolina is currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind the New York Rangers. Carolina has played one less game than the Rangers. Carolina also improved its overtime mark to 4-0-9 in overtime this season.
Ron Francis, who threaded a pass through three Florida Panthers to find Jeff O’Neill wide open in front of the net, set up O’Neill’s game-winning goal
"He knew I was open, I just had to put it in the net," O'Neill said. "He makes everything happen for me out there. We needed somebody to step up and make a big play tonight, and every night. It's a good start for our road trip."
The Panthers opened the scoring on Mike Wilson's third goal and first in 28 games. Wilson took a pass from Ray Whitney and unleashed a slap shot from just outside the left circle. The drive beat Arturs Irbe in the upper corner of the net at 10:49 of the first.
The Hurricanes tied it 1-1 in the second when O'Neill's backhander slipped through Vernon's legs.
"We came out and threw everything at them," Carolina center Rod Brind'amour said. "We don't have a choice. They obviously don't need the points like we do and I think that showed."
"I would have had to hide myself if we hadn't have won the game with the way we dominated in the second period," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "We deserved to win that game.”
Carolina continues its road trip this week in Phoenix on Wednesday night that will be televised by ESPN2. The Hurricanes face Los Angeles on Thursday night and conclude the nine-day trip in San Jose on Saturday night. Both the Los Angeles and San Jose games can be seen on the Hurricanes Television Network.
SummaryCarolina 0 1 0 1--2Florida 1 0 0 0--1 FIRST PERIODScoring: 1, Florida, Wilson 3 (Whitney), 10:49.Penalties: Kovalenko, Car (tripping), 3:48; Parrish, Fla (high sticking),4:35; Laus, Fla (roughing), 13:53; Kvasha, Fla (roughing), 13:53; Pratt,Car (roughing), 13:53; Hill, Car (hooking), 18:10.SECOND PERIODScoring: 2, Carolina, Oneill 18 (Francis, Gelinas),13:14. Penalties: Brind'amour, Car (hooking), 0:22; Hedican, Fla(interference), 4:01; Pratt, Car (tripping), 17:12.THIRD PERIODScoring: None. Penalties: Pratt, Car (Obstr holding),3:54; Niedermayer, Fla (high sticking), 5:55.OVERTIMEScoring: 3, Carolina, Oneill 19 (Francis, Hill), 2:28. -Shots on goal:Carolina 8 14 7 3--32Florida 7 6 6 0--19
Power-play Conversions: Car - 0 of 4, Fla - 0 of 5. Goalies: Carolina,Irbe (19 shots, 18 saves; record: 23-22-8). Florida, Vernon (32, 30; record: 16-15-1). A:16,801. Referees: Angus, P Devorski. Linesmen: S Provost, Seitz.