First, the Carolina Hurricanes traded Viktor Stalberg.
Next, Jeff Skinner was abruptly sent back to Raleigh with an injury.
Once the game began Tuesday, Brock McGinn was hurt on his first shift and left the game early in the second period, leaving the Canes with 10 forwards, six defenseman and a defenseman forced to play both forward and on the back end.
The Florida Panthers, looking to end a three-game home losing streak, showed no sympathy, jumping to a 2-0 lead after the first period.
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But on a tough, challenging and at times confounding day, the Canes put together a strong second period, rallied to tie the score in the third, then forced overtime. They lost 3-2 in a shootout, in Cam Ward’s 600th career start and on the goalie’s 33rd birthday, but this road loss didn’t sting as much as others this season.
“I give them all the credit in the world for finding a way to dig deep and gut out a point,” Canes coach Bill Peters said of his team.
The Stalberg trade came after the morning skate at BB&T Center, and then Skinner departed a few hours later to be evaluated for an upper-body injury. Peters had defenseman Matt Tennyson ready to fill in as a fourth-line winger, then McGinn went down.
“It’s not a perfect scenario,” Peters said. “The guys did a good job hanging in there.”
The Panthers took the lead in the first on a power-play goal by Jaromir Jagr and then Vincent Trocheck’s score off a rebound. Jagr’s goal was the 761st of his career and came after the Canes first killed off a penalty, then were called for too many men on the ice after the kill.
But Lee Stempniak scored for the Canes in the second off a well-executed centering pass from Teuvo Teravainen, who played one of his best games of the season. Sebastian Aho’s third-period goal, the 18th of his rookie season, tied it 2-2.
Aho had five goals in the five games before the Canes’ NHL bye week but just one assist in the 1-3-1 homestand that followed the break. His goal Tuesday came when he went to the front of the net and slipped a rebound past Roberto Luongo.
“We got the two goals and (the players) maybe thought it was going to be an easy night,” Panthers coach Tom Rowe said. “[Carolina] has got a good team. I don’t care what their record is, they still have a good team and they’re structured and they worked hard.”
The shootout, as most are in the NHL, seemed anticlimactic. Ward, who had 29 stops in the game, made a sprawling save against Trocheck, but Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau both scored — Barkov on a slow-motion shootout attempt that was reviewed.
Luongo stopped Stempniak and Aho in the shootout to get the Panthers the two points.
“Our compete level today was good,” Aho said. “I liked the way we played in the second and third periods and tied it. We started to play faster, everyone skated hard and competed hard. We tied it but we need to play the first of the game the same way.”
The Canes (25-25-9) have another road game Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and again will be without Skinner.