The Carolina Hurricanes got five goals by five different players to take down the visiting Florida Panthers on Friday night at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, 5-1. The ‘Canes jumped on the board early in the first on a goal by Riley Nash, his eighth of the season and fifth point in five games (3g, 2a) against Florida. Carolina has now moved its record to 16-1-4 when they score the first goal. Hurricane forward Alexander Semin put his team up two moments later when Panthers goalie Tim Thomas had a shot rebound out into the slot in front of a wide-open Semin. The goal is his 14th of the season and his eighth in his last ten games.
Florida, determined to stay close, answered later in the period. A Dylan Olsen shot bounced softly off the left foot of Hurricane goalie Anton Khubodin. Florida center Nick Bjugstad was crashing and found himself with the puck and an open look. The scoring in the wild first period wasn’t finished and Hurricane defenseman, Brett Bellemore, rifled one past Thomas to take a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Florida came out firing in the second period, however, another Hurricane goal got starting goalie Tim Thomas pulled for back-up Scott Clemmensen. Jiri Tlusty got the fourth Hurricane goal after an aggressive Thomas moved to the top of the crease to stop a shot from Hurricane captain Eric Staal and was unable to control the rebound. The puck fell harmlessly behind him and in front of Tlusty. The shot by Staal moved him ahead of Carolina’s current VP of Hockey Operations, Ron Francis, for first on the franchise’s all-time shots list at 2,542. The Hurricanes added an insurance goal in the third on a power play blast from the blue-line from Andrej Sekera. The goal is his career-high fourth of the season.
Hurricane goalie Anton Khubodin was named the NHL first star of the month in January and his play tonight doesn’t show any signs of him slowing down. The win moves his record to 13-5-0 in 19 appearances this season. Carolina has one game left before the Olympic break. Montreal visits Raleigh on Saturday evening. Carolina has now scored a point or more in 20 of their 31 home games this season. They won’t see much of Raleigh after the break. In their remaining games only nine will be played on home ice and the team will play their remaining 25 games in 48 nights. A tough stretch for a team battling to stay in the thick of a playoff spot in the ultra competitive (except for Pittsburgh) Metropolitan division.