The Carolina Hurricanes are starting to see some success under new head coach Kirk Muller. They'll look to show the Florida Panthers just how much they've changed as the two club's battle tonight at BankAtlantic Center.
The Hurricanes have posted a 2-1-1 record since a seven-game slide, one that saw the firing of Paul Maurice on Nov. 28. Muller made his debut the next night in a loss to the Panthers, the first of four setbacks in a row under the new coach.
Muller finally got his first win at Edmonton on Dec. 7 before dropping games in Winnipeg and Toronto. The coach received a taste of victory on home ice for the first time on Thursday as his club rallied for a 4-3 win over Vancouver.
Drayson Bowman scored twice and Tuomo Ruutu added a goal during a 4:45 span in the game that erased a two-goal deficit, and Jaroslav Spacek also lit the lamp. Cam Ward then made 33 saves to preserve the win, posting some key stops down the stretch.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great because that's what I expect from myself," Ward said. "I know I have to be on top of my game to give this team a chance, and fortunately I was seeing the puck really well tonight."
Skinner had the only Carolina goal and Ward made 18 saves in the 3-1 loss to the Panthers back in late November. It was the first of six meetings between the division rivals and just only the Hurricanes' second setback in the past six encounters.
The 'Canes have lost six of their last nine in Sunrise, where the Panthers have engaged in 11 straight one-goal games. They dropped a 3-2 shootout to the Devils to begin a four-game residency on Tuesday, then answered with a 3-2 shootout win over Calgary on Friday.
The Panthers came into the game just 1-4 in shootouts this year and had scored just once on their 14 chances in the tiebreak. However, they got goals from Dmitry Kulikov and Stephen Weiss in last night's breakaway session, while Jose Theodore stopped three of four skaters after posting 24 saves through overtime.
Sean Bergenheim scored twice as Florida avoided a fourth straight loss.
"It was one of those games that just built up towards the end," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen. "We really played as a team tonight and it was nice to get those two points."
The Panthers are 7-2-5 at home this year and haven't suffered a regulation loss at BankAtlantic Center since Nov. 13.