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Semin scores pair as Hurricanes defeat Panthers

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Alexander Semin was left off the Russian Olympic team and was openly criticized by his NHL general manager this week for a lack of production -- stinging realities for the slumping right winger, who was signed to a lucrative five-year contract last year to score goals in bunches for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Semin, with just six goals in 34 games heading into the game Saturday night against Florida, responded to the harsh words by Carolina GM Jim Rutherford with his play on the ice, scoring two third-period goals and registering a season-high eight shots in a 3-2 victory over the Panthers.

Semin, who doesn't talk to the media, was once again a no-show for postgame interviews, but others in the Carolina dressing room were more than willing to talk about their teammate.

"With any offensive guy, it's always nice to see (the puck) hit the back of the net; you can gain some real good confidence like that," said Carolina center and captain Eric Staal.

"We both want to contribute offensively, we both want to be keys to success with this group here, but for whatever reason, it has been a tough start for both of us," added Staal of himself and Semin. "At this point it's behind us. For him to score those goals, you could tell he had a little bit more swagger out there for the rest of the game and he had a couple more chances, too."

Semin, a 40-goal scorer for Washington in 2009-10 and a former Olympian, won't be returning to his home country as a member of his nation's hockey team in a few weeks.

"He's a big player in this league so I don't think he thinks much about it, but at the same time, you have to realize or figure out what he did wrong and keep moving forward as a player," said Carolina goalie and fellow Russian Anton Khudobin, who made 37 saves against Florida.

Semin, with just three goals in his last 24 games, notched his seventh of the season, breaking a 1-1 tie with a quick wrist shot off a faceoff won by center Eric Staal 2:31 into the third. Semin then scored Carolina's (20-18-9) NHL-best ninth short-handed goal with 11:03 left.

"We've got some offensive guys who play on the penalty kill that are capable of putting the puck in the net when they get those looks," Staal said. "Sometimes when the other power play is pressing and getting shots blocked you have an opportunity to spring a guy we've got the guys to take advantage."

Florida (18-23-7) fell to 7-29-4 in North Carolina since the 1999-2000 season. The Panthers continued to struggle with the man advantage, now going nine straight games without a power-play goal after their 0-for-4 effort.

"No, I don't think it's the same story," said Florida coach Peter Horachek. "After two periods, we had just as many shots and chances as they did. We did not capitalize on ours."

The Panthers made it interesting with a goal with 5:39 left by right winger Tomas Kopecky that appeared to deflect off the body of Carolina center Jordan Staal and past a surprised Khudobin.

The Panthers, worst in the NHL on the power play, managed just two shots during a four-minute double-minor high sticking penalty against right winger Radek Dvorak midway through the second after Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead. The Panthers also had two power-play opportunities in the third after the first Semin goal gave the Hurricanes a one-goal lead.

However, Semin notched his first two-goal game of the season when he beat goalie Tim Thomas on a short-handed breakaway as the Panthers ran their string of unsuccessful man-advantage opportunities to 32 straight.

"When you watch that's it's tough to see him not playing for the Russians," said Carolina center Riley Nash. "He is one of the best talents in the world and when he plays hard, he's one of my favorite players to watch; it's a real treat to watch him."

The Panthers tied the score at 1 with 4:55 left in the second when center Marcel Goc scored his ninth of the season after freeing himself up to the left of Khudobin for a point-blank opportunity.

Carolina scored its first goal in seven periods when Dvorak kept a clearing pass in at the blue line early in the second period. Nash notched the goal, his fifth of the season, as he jumped on a rebound following a Dvorak slap pass as he battled Florida defenseman Tom Gilbert for position in front of Thomas, who had been spectacular with 15 first-period saves.

NOTES: Carolina has just 22 first-period goals in 47 games. ... Florida C Shawn Matthias played in his 300th career game. ... Carolina plays five games in the next seven days and 11 in 22 leading up to the Olympic break. ... G Tim Thomas started his eighth straight game in net for the Panthers. ... D Mike Komisarek was in the lineup for just the fourth time in the last 18 games for the Hurricanes. ... Carolina coach Kirk Muller reunited the team's top line from a season ago with Jiri Tlusty joining Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. ... Florida C Scott Gomez was a healthy scratch for the 26th time in the last 32 games. ... Carolina G Cam Ward missed his seventh straight game with what the team is calling a lower-body injury. ... RW Radek Dvorak's assist on the first Carolina goal was his first point in 18 games dating to Dec. 3.
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