Carolina Hurricanes Craig Adams, left, tangles with Florida Panthers Jay Bouwmeester during first period of NHL hockey game at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
The shackles previously wrapped around the Panthers, like the chains around Jacob Marley, were gone Thursday morning.
After a memorable comeback Wednesday evening against the Southeast-leading Hurricanes, the Panthers left South Florida on a two-game road trip having exorcised some collective and personal demons.
After losing consecutive games in the third period against the Sabres and Predators, the Panthers climbed out of a 2-1 hole Wednesday by scoring three, third period goals and beating Carolina 4-2.
Two of the stars were Richard Zednik and Jay Bouwmeester. Zednik, who had been creating chances the past two weeks with little success, scored the game-winner after getting behind the Carolina defense. Meanwhile, Bouwmeester tied the game at two on the rush with his first goal of the season.
“With Jay, he’s been on the attack quite a bit,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin Thursday morning. “That’s a big lift off his shoulders. He’s our defenseman that we count on for his production.
“And Richard has had several good opportunities and hasn’t been able to put it in. So it was nice to see him last night put one in and, hopefully, it will continue.”
The victory was a key one for the Panthers, who have struggled the past two seasons in the final 20 minutes. But after third period setbacks against the Sabres and Predators, the Panthers seemed to shake the weight of those losses off their shoulders.
“I liked the way we played the game (Wednesday),” Martin said. “We played three periods, similar to the game against Philadelphia except we didn’t have the lead. We had to come from behind. But as far as our play and our work ethic and playing for 60 minutes? That was encouraging.
“On five on five, we created the most chances and we capitalized on our opportunities on the power play. Even after we tied the game 1-1, and we had a breakdown and they took the lead, we came back. We persevered.
Captain Olli Jokinen, who threaded a beautiful pass to Zednik for the game-winning goal and had a goal and two assists, said the Panthers “won all the battles at the end.”
The Panthers also got big games from Ville Peltonen, who set up the fourth goal with his work along the boards, and the line of Gregory Campbell, Radek Dvorak and Kamil Kreps.
The victory sparked hope as the Panthers entered November, a cruel month the past two years that has yielded only four victories. A successful November is critical this season since, after Friday’s meeting in Buffalo, the Panthers play nine consecutive games against Southeast Division opponents.
“Those nine games are really crucial now,” Martin said. “We’ve finished the month 5-7. If we win these next two games we’ll be back to .500 and right in the thick of things.”
The Sabres traveled to Boston for Thursday’s game against the Bruins before they were to play host Friday to the Panthers. The Hurricanes will have not played before hosting the Panthers Saturday in Raleigh.