Panthers @ Canes

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 7, 2014 

The Canes have a 4-1 lead after two periods and have knocked out starting goalie Tim Thomas, but the game is closer than the score would indicate.

Riley Nash, Alex Semin and Brett Bellemore scored as the Canes took a 3-1 lead after one. Jiri Tlusty then scored early in the second for the Canes, ending Thomas' night.

Also in the second period, Canes captain Eric Staal passéd Ron Francis and took over first place in the franchise's all-time shots list with 2,542.

Nash's eighth goal of the season came a few minutes after a hit by 5-foot-5 Nathan Gerbe on Panthers defenseman Alex Gudbranson -- listed at 6-5 and 210 pounds -- appeared to energize both the crowd and his team.

On the scoring play, Gudbranson failed to clear the puck from the zone and Tuomo Ruutu -- playing his 600th career game -- found Nash open in the slot with a sharp pass from off the boards.

The Canes quickly made it 2-0 on Semin's goal, the eighth in the past 10 games for the Russian Olympian. After a faceoff win by Eric Staal in the Panthers' zone, Andrej Sekera got off a shot from the left point. The puck was knocked around and into the slot, where Semin grabbed it, turned and fired.

The Panthers weren't playing that poorly, however. A night after a 3-1 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Florida kept the pressure on the Canes with a strong forecheck and picked up a goal from Nick Bjugstad to make it a 2-1 game.

But Bellemore's goal with 1:39 left in the first made it 3-1 and stymied Florida's momentum. Jeff Skinner, despite being knocked to the ice, jumped up to play the puck. Bellemore pinched in from the right wing and rifled a shot past Thomas.

Tlusty scored at 4:36 of the second, knocking in the rebound of a shot by Eric Staal. Thomas, having allowed four goals on 14 shots, was relieved by Scott Clemensen.

Bellemore had the crowd on its feet in the second when he dropped the gloves and went at it with Gudbranson. A few blows were exchanged before Bellemore tossed Gudbranson to the ice and landed on top of him.

The Canes, with Anton Khudobin again in net, had a 12-10 shooting edge in the first but the Panthers had 15 second-period shots to the Canes' nine.

After a penalty-free first period, five were called in the second. Clemmensen made a good glove save on an Eric Staal shot on a Canes' power play, and the Panthers then just missed a shorthanded goal when Tomas Kopecky's got off a shot and the puck nicked the post.

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