Canes fall to Panthers

Playing without Eric Staal, Carolina extends winless streak to 10 games in shutout loss to Panthers.

Staff writerNovember 5, 2009 

— One long streak came to an end Wednesday for the Carolina Hurricanes.

But not another streak that has grown much too long for the Hurricanes' liking.

The Florida Panthers outlasted the Canes 3-0 on Wednesday night at BankAtlantic Center. Make it 10 straight losses for the Hurricanes, who played without center Eric Staal for the first time since 2004 and whose misery and frustration continues.

Steven Reinprecht gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 5:09 of the third when a Cory Stillman shot went off his shin pad and past Canes goaltender Cam Ward. Stillman added a power-play goal with 6:16 to play, and with Tomas Vokoun strong in net with 32 saves, Florida had all it needed.

Staal had missed just one game in his NHL career, on March 19, 2004. His streak had reached 349 regular-season games, plus another 43 in the playoffs.

But come game time Wednesday, No. 12 was not in the Hurricanes' lineup. It's possible Staal, who has an upper-body injury, could be out two to four weeks.

"I thought we played well," Ward said. "Obviously it's no secret we're having a tough time putting the puck in the net, [but] we're doing all the right things.

"I thought tonight we were more deserving of a better outcome. But we've just got to stick with it. But it's not easy when you're on a losing streak."

The Canes ripped the Panthers 7-2 on Oct. 9 at the RBC Center, with 12 players getting points. Few would have thought the Hurricanes would come to the BankAtlantic Center almost a month later looking for their next win.

For two periods, it was scoreless. Vokoun had more work, facing 21 shots in the first period, but the Canes and Ward had to kill off four Panthers power plays in the second.

"I thought the first period we played really good hockey," the Canes' Jussi Jokinen said. "We just couldn't find any holes. We had a lot of good chances."

The pressure built into the third. Would the Hurricanes finally end the losing streak and win their first road game of the season? Would the Panthers, who opened the season 2-7-1, pick up a third straight win after beating Dallas and St. Louis on the road.

The Panthers broke through first, with Stillman getting off a shot from the left circle that got a piece of the Canes' Sergei Samsonov, then another that glanced off Reinprecht for his team-leading ninth goal.

"We played a very, very good game," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "We looked so much like our old selves through a big part of that game. We didn't win, so we don't get the good feeling we'd like and we deserved.

"We did so many good things in that game. Even in the second period we were in the penalty box for eight minutes, I thought the shifts right after our penalty kills we came back with good opportunities. ... And you know the one that's going in is going off someone's shin pad."

The Panthers, gaining more energy and the game progressed, had several chances to add to the lead through the middle minutes of the third. Michael Frolik missed an open net. Gregory Campbell had a good look in front.

A penalty on the Canes' Joni Pitkanen then led to the Panthers' second score. Stillman, always dangerous around the net, redirected the puck past Ward.

In the opening period, the Canes shot the puck - time and again. Carolina had a 21-4 edge in shots and three power plays.

Scott Walker had a nice shot. Brandon Sutter had a couple of nice shots. Samsonov hit the post.

But nothing got past Vokoun, who shut out the St. Louis Blues with 34 saves in his last start.

In the second period, the Canes went to the penalty box - time and again. Carolina picked up four penalties in a span of about nine minutes - two by defenseman Tim Gleason, who returned after missing five games with an injury - but killed them all off.

Ward made a sure glove save on a hard shot by the Panthers' Nathan Horton on the third Florida power play, and Sutter had a short-handed chance on the fourth power play of the period.

With two minutes left in the second, the Canes swarmed around Vokoun. Chad LaRose and Matt Cullen swatted at the puck, but Vokoun would not relent.

The Hurricanes have another back-to-back coming up. They return to the RBC Center on Friday to play the Toronto Maple Leafs, then face the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road Saturday.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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