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Panthers use three-goal third to defeat Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- One night after a physical loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Florida Panthers needed to dig deep to find some jump in their legs.

After an early goal from Nick Bjugstad, the Panthers seized control of the game, and then used two goals 50 seconds apart in the third period, including rookie Connor Brickley's first NHL goal, to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 at PNC Arena on Tuesday.

The Panthers (2-1-0), who have allowed one goal in each of their first three games, got a 22-save performance from Al Montoya in his first start of the season.

If Florida was feeling any fatigue after its 1-0 loss in Philadelphia on Monday, it didn't show.

"We felt good," said defenseman Eric Gudbranson, who had an assist and three blocked shots. "We started really well. We came out of the gates flying. We felt like we carried that through the whole game. They're a tough team to play against. They're really small and their really fast."

The Panthers got on the board at 2:01 of the first period following a Hurricanes turnover. Eddie Lack, making his debut in the Carolina goal, tried a clearing pass, but it was knocked down in the right circle by Brandon Pirri. Moments later, Brian Campbell set up Bjugstad in the slot for a wrist shot over Lack's glove.

"[Campbell] is one of the better passers on the team, so he found me," Bjugstad said. "He didn't think I was going to get the shot off. On the bench, he said I was taking too long. He said no chance I would get it off."

Bjugstad had the only goal through two periods despite a total of seven minor penalties. Neither team's power-play units were clicking; Carolina had six shots on four power plays, and Florida had two on three opportunities.

Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm scored at 12:06 of the second period to tie it 1-1.

While the Panthers waited to find their scoring touch, the defense made Montoya's night manageable; he faced 15 shots through two periods.

"In between periods, we just stayed positive," Bjugstad said. "We knew something good was coming if we kept working hard. I thought we did a good job in the offensive zone getting opportunities."

The big break came at 12:18 of the third in the form of Brickley's first career goal. Brickley drove the net to score on the rebound of Dmitry Kulikov's backhand centering pass from the right-side boards.

Brickley, playing his third game in the League, appeared to have his first goal in the second period, but an inadvertent whistle denied the goal.

"For sure, the monkey is off my back now, and we can focus on playing hard every night and every shift," Brickley said. "Our line is out there to create some energy and play fast, physical hockey, and that's going to create some offense."

Florida coach Gerard Gallant was quick to praise his 23-year-old rookie.

"The kid worked hard and battled hard, and that's how he goes," Gallant said. "He goes hard to the net. That's how he scores his goals, and it was good to see for him."

Aleksander Barkov scored 50 seconds later to make it 3-1 after Jaromir Jagr's shot trickled through the pads of Lack, who made 26 saves.

Jussi Jokinen scored an empty-net goal for the final margin.

The Hurricanes are 0-3-0 after starting last season 0-6-2. Coach Bill Peters, who was determined to avoid a slow start in his second season behind the Carolina bench, was not pleased with the effort.

"I didn't see that coming, especially this early in the year," Peters said. "I don't know where that came from. We'll have to try to figure that out, but we were not ready, not mentally sharp."

Most of the Hurricanes' shots came from the perimeter, and they didn't get to the net for second chances.

"Everyone knows where the blue paint is, you've got to be willing to go there, and you've got to be willing to stop," Peters said. "We didn't have that tonight."

The Hurricanes begin a seven-game road trip against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

As for the Panthers, the back-to-back games didn't take too much of a toll.

"Obviously, we're going to sleep well tonight," Gudbranson said, "but we're going to sleep better with the two points."

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