RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA (TICKER)—The Carolina Hurricanes avoided matching the longest losing streak in franchise history as Josef Vasicek recorded a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Erik Cole and defenseman Niclas Wallin also scored for the Hurricanes, who had dropped eight straight games (0-7-0-1) and were winless in nine. They had not won since January 4 and had not been victorious at home since December 22, a span of seven games (0-6-0-1).
“It was getting to the point where you almost start to wonder what else you need to do in order to win,” goaltender Arturs Irbe said. “Tonight was a night where it didn’t come easy, but we did everything right and it happened.”
Carolina dropped nine straight games during the 1982-83 season, when it was known as the Hartford Whalers.
“You don’t want to be known as the team that set a record in the wrong direction,” captain Ron Francis said.
Vasicek won a faceoff in the offensive zone to set up Wallin’s second goal of the season, which made it 2-0 with 3:08 left in the second period, and added his fifth 2 1/2 minutes later.
Wallin scored his first goal since October 30, helping the Hurricanes move within a point of Florida in the Southeast Division. They are 13th in the Eastern Conference after making it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Although they avoided the longest skid in franchise history, the Hurricanes still can become just the 10th team to miss the playoffs a year after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.
“We still believe we’re making the playoffs,” Francis said. “It was critical we get this thing turned around. Tonight was a start and hopefully, we can build on that going forward.”
Irbe stopped 20 shots, losing his shutout with 6:49 remaining.
Robert Luongo made 41 saves for the Panthers, who lost their third straight and fell to 5-10-3-4 in their last 22 games. They were outshot, 39-11, through two periods and 44-21 for the night.
“If we look at it realistically, we’re lucky,” Panthers coach Mike Keenan said. “Luongo kept us in the game. I think I looked up and the shots were 12-2 at one point.”
Cole opened the scoring on the power play 5:02 into the first period, putting a rebound past Luongo’s right pad for his 14th goal of the season.
Wallin added his first goal in nearly three months when he skated from the left point, around the outside edge of the left faceoff circle and to the net before putting the puck through Luongo’s legs.
Vasicek scored the backbreaker with 38 seconds left in the opening period, redirecting Cole’s centering feed past Luongo after battling to the front of the net. It was Vasicek’s fifth goal of the season and second in as many games.
“Last night’s goal helped me with my confidence,” Vasicek said. “It’s always good to score a goal. It builds confidence.”
The Hurricanes failed to score in the second, but they matched a season high in shots, holding a 21-5 cushion.
“Well, it was all Carolina for sure tonight,” Keenan said.
Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell snapped Irbe’s shutout bid 13:11 into the third period by scoring his second goal of the campaign.