story by Dave Droschak
RALEIGH, N.C. - It's big news when the Florida Panthers blow a third-period lead. It's even bigger news when the Carolina Hurricanes win an overtime game.
Nolan Pratt's first goal of the season 27 seconds into the extra period gave the Hurricanes a 4-3 victory over the Panthers on Sunday night.
The Southeast Division-leading Panthers lost for the first time in 16 tries when leading after two periods, while the Hurricanes snapped their three-game losing streak and won in OT for the first time in almost a year.
"It was almost a light feeling on the bench tonight," said coach Paul Maurice of his club, which had lost six of seven.
The Panthers won 14 straight when leading after two periods, but squandered a 3-1 lead Wednesday against Atlanta for a 3-3 tie and then saw Pratt's goal beat them this time.
"The puck is finding its way into the net right now," Florida coach Terry Murray said. "Whether it's breakdowns as the other team attacks through the neutral zone, or down-low play. We're going to have to tighten that thing up and play better and get those points that are there."
Pratt, a defenseman, scored from in close after taking a pass from Jeff O'Neill to give the Hurricanes their first overtime victory in 21 tries dating to Jan. 28.
"For a guy who doesn't get a whole lot of chances, it's good to see him be a hero," Maurice said of Pratt, who had just one goal in 93 games entering this season.
Ray Whitney scored his 15th goal with 10:53 left on a perfect pass from Pavel Bure to tie it 3-3, but Carolina's win extended its unbeaten streak to seven (3-0-4) against the Panthers.
A goal two minutes before Whitney's by Martin Gelinas gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead early in the third. But the dangerous Bure broke in on goaltender Arturs Irbe, drew the defense, then slid a pass over to a wide open Whitney, who buried the shot.
A pair of second-period goals six minutes apart by Mark Parrish had the Panthers on top before Ron Francis netted his ninth early in the third to tie it at 2-2 and give the slumping Hurricanes some momentum.
Carolina held the red-hot Bure without a goal, but couldn't shut down Parrish, whose 10th goal of the season 7:18 into the second period tied the score 1-1.
The second-year player then one-timed one past Irbe six minutes later on a perfect cross-ice pass from Radek Dvorak for a 2-1 lead.
Carolina, tops in the NHL in home-penalty killing, broke on top 1-0 when Tommy Westlund stripped Oleg Kvasha of the puck in the neutral zone and scored his second of the season.
Irbe saved the game with two minutes left in regulation when he raced 25 feet out of his net to stick the puck away from Bure, who was on a breakaway.
"It has been tough for us and tough for me personally," said Irbe, who has been mediocre during the team's recent slump. "The win was big, it was huge. This is the first step in the right direction, getting a win and making some big saves when we needed them."
Carolina Coach Paul Maurice:
“Aside from the fact that we were struggling and struggling, we really couldn’t get any positive flow going. I can’t get down on the guys for not playing hard, they’ve been going as hard as they can. We just haven’t been sharp being able to put pucks away. Arturs was great at the start of the game. He gave us a good chance to win the game. We had some really nice goals from Ronny and Westy. The Marty Gelinas goal was a highlight goal. But more importantly Ronny’s goal was some for Archie. It’s a fight every night. We just have to throw the puck on net and good things will happen. Nolan, for a guy that does not get to see a whole lot of chances, it’s good to see him be the hero.”
“One of the things that happened, and it happened against Detroit, I thought we were dragging, really tired. A couple of days off really helped us because you know how your team is going to go when push comes to shove, how they’re going to handle things when things are not going well. It happened in Ottawa and again tonight. It was a real good feeling in the locker room going into the third period. They were do, it was their time.”
Florida Coach Terry Murray:
On surrendering the lead:
“Last year it happened with the same club. Several times this year and it’s a concern winning games. It’s not the goal tending and we really needed the win tonight. We have a game tomorrow. We just have to regroup and be ready to go.”
On one on one situations:
“There was mainly 3 on 3 stuff down low, especially for their big bodies. (Francis and Battaglia) are very effective players in this situation. Around the boards we really never got a clear view and had no play.”
On the Carolina second goal:
“(Ray) had it looking to make the play, passed back to a forward, had good possession and then it happened. All comes down to the 3 on 3 stuff. It’s hard to keep it going in the style of play.”
On the game:
“Fundamentals were not there. We had plenty of opportunities on the offensive end. Pavel had plenty of offensive chances. The bounces were going for us in the first period then turned against us later. On the power play our breakouts didn’t have speed. We weren’t skating without the puck. At times it was good, but not at critical times, especially the second period.”
-------------------------------Florida 0 2 1 0--3Carolina 1 0 2 1--4-------------------------------FIRST PERIOD -- Scoring: 1, Carolina, T Westlund 2 (shorthanded)(unassisted), 6:44. Penalties: Irbe, Car served by Battaglia (Delay ofSECOND PERIOD -- Scoring: 2, Florida, Parrish 10 (Niedermayer, Hedican),7:18. 3, Florida, Parrish 11 (Dvorak), 13:22. Penalties: Coffey, Car(tripping), 1:52; Malik, Car (high sticking), 4:34; Coffey, Car(roughing), 4:34; Simpson, Fla (roughing), 4:34; Hedican, Fla (Ob holdingthe stick), 10:09; Battaglia, Car (boarding), 14:28; Mellanby, Fla (goalieinterference), 18:15.THIRD PERIOD -- Scoring: 4, Carolina, Francis 9 (Coffey), 2:41. 5,Carolina, Gelinas 3 (Kron), 7:10. 6, Florida, Whitney 15 (P Bure, RSvehla), 9:07. Penalties: Kvasha, Fla (roughing), 5:14; Kapanen, Car(roughing), 5:14; Simpson, Fla (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:57; Kapanen,Car (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:57; Roberts, Car (Clipping), 11:18.OVERTIME -- Scoring: 7, Carolina, Pratt 1 (Oneill, Roberts), 0:27.Shots on goal:------------------------------------Florida 13 9 6 0--28Carolina 6 7 8 2--23------------------------------------
Power-play Conversions: Fla - 0 of 5, Car - 0 of 3. Goalies: Florida, Shtalenkov (23 shots, 19 saves; record: 11-9-3). Carolina, Irbe (28, 25; record: 11-11-7). A:13,940. Referee: Maguire. Linesmen: Nowak, Orourke.