Hurricanes 3, Panthers 2

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Carolina Hurricanes lost their starting goalie but swept a home-and-home weekend series, beating the Florida Panthers 3-2 Sunday night at the BB&T center.
With 8:56 elapsed in the second period, Carolina goalie Cam Ward left the game with what appeared to be an injury to his left leg. He was replaced by Dan Ellis, who finished the game.
There was no immediate word on the severity of Ward's injury.
Ellis, meanwhile, had been expected to start Sunday but sat out due to an illness. That was, of course, until he was forced into action by the Ward injury.
The Hurricanes lead the Southeast Division with 25 points. The Panthers, with 17 points, are tied for last with the Capitals.
The Panthers, though, did put a scare into Carolina, scoring with 54 seconds left on a goal by rookie Jonathan Huberdeau. It was his second goal of the game and his 10th of the season.
The Hurricanes, who beat the Panthers 6-2 on Saturday, took a 2-0 lead late in the first period on a pair of goals scored within one minute of each other.
First it was Justin Faulk, scoring on a slapshot at 18:08 after a poor clear attempt by the Panthers' defense. The unassisted goal was his third of the year.
Then Alexander Semin scored on a backhander, his fifth goal of the season. The assists went to Jiri Tlusty and Eric Staal.
Jordan Staal made it 3-0, scoring unassisted on a wrist shot at 6:09 of the second period. It was his fifth goal of the season.
After Ward was replaced by Ellis, Huberdeau made it 3-1 with a tip-in at 16:04 of the second period. Huberdeau is fresh off his award as the NHL Rookie of the Month.
Huberdeau, who had six goals and three assists in 13 February games, leads all NHL rookies in goals. Panthers' rookie Drew Shore, who has 10 points this season, was third in the Rookie of the Month voting.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, their goaltending has been a mess this season. They entered Sunday last in the 31-team league with a 3.71 goals-against average. And they entered Sunday coming off three straight games in which neither goalie -- Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen -- managed to last through the second period.
Theodore's knee injury on Saturday -- the same ailment that caused him to miss last year's playoffs -- finally forced the Panthers to make a change, recalling rookie Jacob Markstrom from the team's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, who said Theodore "is going to be out awhile," started Clemmensen Sunday. Markstrom arrived late from San Antonio -- and his equipment got to the arena even later.
It's a pretty safe bet Markstrom will be getting a long look very soon -- and many of the fans at the BB&T Center were chanting his name after every goal allowed Sunday by Clemmensen.
Meanwhile, Panthers center Stephen Weiss, who was ejected Saturday after fighting Faulk, was back in action. But it's been a tough week for the Panthers star.
Weiss missed Tuesday's win over the Penguins to attend the funeral of his in Toronto. And, in his last game before he left for the funeral, Weiss had been benched in the third period.
Weiss said he has to improve if he intends to keep his spot in the lineup.
"The easy answer is to play better," he said. "That's the bottom line."
Notes: The Panthers placed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on the injured list after he hurt his wrist/hand on Saturday. Nolan Yonkman, 31, a veteran of 67 NHL games, was called up from the minors to replace Kulikov. ... Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver, who suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday's loss to the Buffalo Sabres, will be out an "extended" amount of time, according to coach Kevin Dineen. ... Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (knee), who has already been out a month, will miss at least another week, Dineen said. ... Dineen said the Panthers will have something to announce about Alex Kovalev in a couple days, but the conjecture is that the veteran winger will be released. He has been a healthy scratch the past few games. ... Panthers winger Scottie Upshall, who missed 13 games this season due to injuries, returned to action Saturday but he did not complete the game due to a lower-body injury. He was inactive Sunday. ... Panthers winger Kris Versteeg was not in Sunday's lineup but is reportedly close to returning from his injury. ... Before the Hurricanes beat the Panthers Saturday night, they were 0-5 against their Southeast Division rivals but 10-3-1 against the rest of the Eastern Conference. ... Carolina center Tim Brent, who sat out Saturday's game due to a lower-body injury, was inactive again on Sunday. ... Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who has been plagued by lower-body injuries, did not play Sunday. He had missed seven games, returned Saturday but then re-aggravated his injury. ... Hurricanes winger Chad Larose was also inactive Sunday. ... The Hurricanes are tied for fifth in the league in goals but just 25th on power-play percentage (13.9). They also rank 24th on the penalty kill (78.2).

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