Semin’s two goals give Hurricanes 3-2 win over Panthers

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 18, 2014 

— Alexander Semin has been criticized this season for not shooting enough or scoring enough for the Carolina Hurricanes.

In fact, Canes general manager Jim Rutherford was a recent critic.

Semin responded Saturday with a pair of third-period goals as the Canes topped the Florida Panthers 3-2 at PNC Arena, ending a two-game losing streak.

“We’re very happy with the win tonight,” Semin said. “After the last two games, it was good for our team.”

Riley Nash also scored for the Canes (20-18-9), who got 37 saves and another strong effort in net from goalie Anton Khudobin and weren’t lacking energy after four days between games. Eric Staal assisted on both Semin goals, but Semin easily was the game’s first star.

“It’s nice to see him score a couple,” Staal said. “With any offensive guy it’s always nice to see him hit the back of the net. You regain your confidence that way.”

Rutherford, in a television interview Friday with WTVD, said the Canes were disappointed in Semin’s production and said the Russian winger was being paid – a $7 million annual salary, to be exact – to score goals and put up points.

Semin, who had a team-high eight shots, scored his first early in the third for a 2-1 lead. After a clean faceoff win by Staal, Semin didn’t hesitate in ripping a shot past Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, who had 36 saves and was spectacular at times.

Semin’s second goal was the Canes’ ninth shorthanded score of the season. Taking a stretch pass from Staal, Semin was off on a breakaway and beat Thomas for a 3-1 lead.

“When you watch that, it’s tough not seeing him playing for the Russians (in the Olympics),” Nash said. “I think he’s one of the best talents in the world. He plays hard. It’s a treat to watch him, especially on a night like tonight.”

The Panthers (18-23-7) kept battling. Dmitry Kulikov’s goal with 5:39 left in regulation pulled Florida within 3-2 and it was tense in the final minutes.

When Nash scored in the second period, it ended a scoreless span of almost 145 minutes for the Canes. The goal came from the fourth line, and the Canes appeared happy and relieved after being shut out the past two games by Columbus and then Calgary.

Thomas kept it a scoreless game in the first, moving quickly and decisively in net. The Canes had back-to-back power plays and several good scoring chances, but Thomas made save after save.

“We were humming it around pretty good,” Eric Staal said. “We had a lot of looks and he was pretty good.”

Nash scored after Radek Dvorak made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Dvorak got off a shot and Nash outfought defenseman Tom Gilbert in front to backhand the rebound past Thomas. Dvorak earned his first point in 19 games.

“I thought our first period, especially our power play, was really good,” Nash said. “Thomas stood on his head. When it’s going like that everyone starts squeezing the sticks a little more. As soon as you see the first one go in it kind of calms everyone down.”

The Panthers began the second period with power-play time, but couldn’t score, then had a four-minute power play when Dvorak was called for high-sticking. But Florida, last in the NHL in power-play percentage, could not covert.

The Panthers tied it at even strength late in the second on Marcel Goc’s goal. Jonathan Huberdeau curled a pass in front to Goc, who had inside position on defenseman Jay Harrison and beat Khudobin.

The Panthers also were shut out in their last game, losing 3-0 Thursday to the San Jose Sharks, and were playing their first game this season against their former Southeast Division rivals.

The Canes will be back at PNC Arena again Sunday to face the Tampa Bay Lightning to finish off the back-to-back set.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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