Justin Williams has a new scar, but the Canes got a tough road win over the Panthers

Observations from the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-3 road win Thursday over the Florida Panthers.

-- Justin Williams looked like a fighter after a UFC cage match after the game, scarred, his right cheek puffing up. The Canes captain took a puck off the side of the face in the first period as Brett Pesce’s shot caught him high, the puck falling past Panthers goalie James Reimer for the first goal of the game. Williams, playing with stitches, with cotton stuck up his right nostril, also scored the winner on a third-period power play.

-- Rod Brind’Amour’s quickest decision once named head coach was that Williams would be his captain and wear the “C.” He has made some good decisions this year but that was the best one.

-- Did you see Brind’Amour during that second-period timeout? Pure fury after his team gave up three straight goals to lose the lead. The guys needed it and he delivered. You have to think he used some of the same words he used behind closed doors when first told about Cherry calling his team a bunch of jerks.

-- Who says the Canes can’t hold a post-game celebration anywhere but home? The Canes are calling it a Mentors Trip this season -- not all on the two-game swing are fathers -- but they all joined in for the viking clap, then some floss dancing in their suite after the game at BB&T Center. What about it, Don?

-- Nino. That is all. Niederreiter, who had a goal and assist, now has 15 points in 15 games since the trade from Minnesota.

-- Petr Mrazek is a battler. At times Thursday, the goalie looked as if he was willing himself not to let the Canes lose the game once taking the lead in the third. And he didn’t.

-- Until the Feb. 12 game at Ottawa, their 57th of the season, the Canes had not won a game in which they trailed entering the third period. They’ve now done it twice in the past five games, both on the road. Playoff-caliber teams do that. As Brind’Amour said, “This might be one of those games you look back on and go ‘that was the difference.’”

Carolina Hurricanes’ Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) takes the puck from Florida Panthers’ Riley Sheahan (15) as Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho (20) watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) Luis M. Alvarez AP

-- Sebastian Aho had a nice assist on Williams’ second goal but now has gone nine games without scoring. That needs to change, and will. No. 20 has been stuck on 24.

-- The Panthers , who have played well of late, won’t want to watch video from this one. Said Florida coach Bob Boughner: “I thought we deserved better. We didn’t have great puck luck tonight.” Canes know that feeling.

-- The thinking is that Jordan Staal will play his first game since Dec. 22 on Saturday at Dallas. The Canes have played well without him but they need the big man down the stretch. As Brind’Amour said, it’s almost like trading for a veteran center.

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.