The Carolina Hurricanes once brought in Dan Ellis to be their backup goalie.
On Saturday, Ellis was back with the Florida Panthers and the winning goalie.
Ellis, ably filling in with goalies Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya both injured, had 27 saves as the Panthers topped the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 at PNC Arena.
Brandon Pirri scored on a second-period power play for the Panthers (31-23-14), who still are chasing a wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference but beginning to run out of games. Dave Bolland's empty-netter in the final minute sealed it after the Canes made a hard third-period push.
It was a disappointing finish to a five-game homestand for the Hurricanes. Carolina won just once, ripping Edmonton 7-4 last Sunday, and now are 1-4-1 since trading forward Jiri Tlusty and defensemen Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason before the March 2 NHL deadline.
“We wanted more points, more success here at home,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “Now we know what we're up against and what we have to work with.”
The Hurricanes had their chances against Ellis, who was recalled March 4 from San Antonio of the American Hockey League and making his fourth straight start. In the third, Ron Hainsey and Chris Terry each had shots hit posts, and Eric Staal had some openings around the net.
The Canes pulled goalie Cam Ward, who had 20 stops, for a sixth attacker with three minutes left in regulation. But they could not score as Ellis, who played for Carolina in the 2012-2013 season, finished off his 15th career shutout and third straight win.
“We carried the tempo in the third,” Staal said. “Cam made some big saves to keep it 1-0 and give us chances, and Dan made some good saves at the other end. We had a few looks – I did myself – that you want to have back but tonight they didn't go.”
Often the difference in hockey games can be by the smallest of margins and that was the case Saturday.
Pirri scored on a backhander on the power play with three minutes, 40 seconds left in the second period, squeezing the puck high and past Ward on the short side for the 1-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Andrej Nestrasil had the same chance for the Canes. Nestrasil had speed going to the net and got off a backhand attempt that sailed just over the crossbar.
The Canes carried the play much of a fast-paced first, outshooting the Panthers 15-8.
Jeff Skinner twice had good looks near the post, Jordan Staal punched a shot high and Elias Lindholm was stopped in front. Later, on a first-period power play, the Canes got good shots from Nestrasil, Justin Faulk and Victor Rask.
Two early penalties in the second period appeared to stall the Canes’ momentum and the Panthers had the better of the four-on-four play.
The Canes’ Terry then was called for holding the stick late in the second and the Panthers converted. Pirri bolted into the zone with speed and scored off a give-and-go with Jimmy Hayes as the puck glanced off Ward’s left shoulder.
It was the sixth power-play goal allowed in the past four games by Carolina, which was third in the NHL in penalty killing but has not been as effective the trades of three key penalty killers.
“We’ll look at it and get it figured out,” Peters said. “Our stand at the (blue) line probably isn’t the same as it was earlier in the year and that’s something that can be fixed.”
Ellis, named the game’s first star, played for the Hurricanes in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Stars but was traded to the Panthers later in the 2013-2014 season.
Injuries to Luongo and Montoya, both in the March 3 game against Toronto, resulted in Ellis being recalled and immediately put to work. The Panthers were beaten in Ellis’ first game, against the Stars, but then beat the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets.
“Dan has come in here and done a great job for us,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “He's battling and wants to play.”