Florida 3, Carolina 2 (ot)

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SUNRISE, FLORIDA (TICKER) —Rookie Stephen Weiss slapped a shot past Arturs Irbe with 80 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 victory over the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.

Weiss got a pass from defenseman Brad Ference, found an opening on Irbe’s short side and put a shot over the goaltender’s stick for his fourth goal of the season and first in 18 games.

“It was nice to finally get one,” said Weiss, who netted his first NHL game-winner. “They were on a change. Ference found me, I put my head down and shot it, and it found a way in.”

“It’s a huge goal for him and it’s certainly a confidence builder for him,” Panthers coach Mike Keenan said. “It’s a big step to play junior hockey and then the next year play in the NHL.”

The Panthers squandered a pair of leads before ending a three-game losing streak.

Viktor Kozlov scored 5 1/2 minutes into the game, then set up Olli Jokinen’s team-leading 25th goal, a power-play tally with 5:13 to go in the second period.

Jokinen has scored in five of his last six games.

But Florida was taken to overtime for the league-leading 21st time (4-8-9).

Rookie Jeff Heerema lifted Carolina into a 1-1 deadlock with a power-play goal 9:02 into the second period, putting in a rebound of Sami Kapanen’s shot for his second of the season.

Ron Francis was credited with his 18th goal at 8:37 of the third when Jeff O’Neill’s shot hit his body and caromed under the crossbar.

O’Neill took the tripping penalty that led to Florida’s second goal.

Carolina was trying to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Panthers but fell to 1-8-1-1 in its last 11 games.

“We got a point and I don’t think we can dwell on it,” said Irbe, who made 19 saves. “We all feel we should have won this game. The shot eluded me. I should have stopped it.”

“Seven games in 11 nights, the guys played their butts off tonight,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice added. “We’ve played exceedingly well three straight games at the end of a tough stretch of hockey for us. It’s a good sign and we are going to have to do that.”

Irbe was outplayed by Roberto Luongo, who stopped 39 shots.

“Luongo has been the difference in all four games,” Maurice said.

This was the fourth of five meetings between the Southeast Division rivals this season. Florida has won three and holds Carolina on April 4.

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