Canes fall to Panthers 5-1 in season opener

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2013 

Hurricanes Panthers Hockey

Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11), of Canada, scores his first goal as a Panther against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30), also of Canada, during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla.

WILFREDO LEE — AP

— The Florida Panthers had a lot to celebrate Saturday.

As for the Carolina Hurricanes, not so much. Not much at all, really.

Call it a dreamy start for the Panthers, who raised a banner at the BB&T Center before the season-opener to honor last year's Southeast Division title, then used that jolt of emotion to roll to a 5-1 victory over the Hurricanes.

For the Canes, it was a nightmarish start. The Panthers romped to a 4-0 lead after the first period, scoring three-power play goals and making for an early exit for starting goaltender Cam Ward of the Canes.

By the time Patrick Dwyer scored Carolina's first goal of the season, midway through the second period, finally beating Florida goalie Jose Theodore, the Panthers had built a 5-0 lead.

"I don't think we came out and played hard enough," Dwyer said. "We were still kind of playing shinny out there, with soft plays here and there (and) turnovers that came back to bite us. We weren't ready to play and unfortunately when we started playing it was 4-0."

The Hurricanes spent much of the night trying to corral a bouncing puck and trying to find a way to get it past Theodore, who made 41 saves. Canes coach Kirk Muller said his team seemed tight early in the game -- with some "jumpy sticks" -- and captain Eric Staal agreed.

"It was a lot jumpy," Staal said. "There's a lot of guys who care and want it. Sometimes you get into a game with the puck bouncing a little bit, you get a little antsy and make mistakes and they end up in the back of our net."

Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, playing their first game for the Canes, were silent most of the opener. Late in the second period, Semin was penalized for crosschecking, then picked up another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

So it went -- for the Canes, for the Panthers. The crowd of 19,688 went home happy and the Canes back to Raleigh with some work to do before Tuesday's home opener against Tampa Bay.

The Canes were 0-for-6 on the power play while the Panthers got two power-play scores from Brian Campbell and a third from Scottie Upshall in the opening period. Both of Campbell's goals came on high blasts -- the second on a 5-on-3 power play.

"We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early on," Muller said. "We looked like we had some guys with jitters. It's a tough one after the first to come back (from).

"When we played our game and stuck to the system and play it correctly, I think we put momentum in our favor. But it's still the sloppy things, the things we can work on to get better -- defensive-zone coverage, long shifts, turnovers. It's all correctable."

Ward was pulled after the first period, after allowing the four goals on 12 shots. Dan Ellis took over in goal to begin the second period for Carolina, allowing a goal by Alex Kovalev early in the period but stopping 12 of 13 shots.

Dwyer's goal, off a pass from Joni Pitkanen, came midway through the second. Justin Faulk also assisted on the goal.

In the opening period, Canes defenseman Joe Corvo twice was called for penalties. Jeff Skinner also had a hooking call in the offensive zone.

Rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau of the Panthers, the third overall pick of the 2011 draft, had a goal and two assists. So did Kovalev, the old pro.

Huberdeau scored on his second NHL shift off a nice centering pass from Peter Mueller at 3:37. Then came the blitz of Panthers power-play scores.

After a Corvo cross-check, Campbell blasted a high shot past Ward for a 2-0 lead. Jordan Staal forced Huberdeau into a holding penalty, but Corvo quickly followed with a holding penalty and Skinner with the hooking call.

The Panthers took advantage of the Carolina errors. Campbell beat Ward high to the stick side for a 5-on-3 power-play goal, and Upshall ripped another past Ward to make it 4-0.

The Canes were more aggressive in the second, but more penalties were coming. Semin picked up the two minors. Tim Gleason was penalized for crosschecking, then Chad LaRose for tripping with 3.3 seconds left in the period.

The Canes did kill off the Panthers' 5-on-3 power play early in the third but the game had been decided.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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