The results haven’t.
The Hurricanes extended their home-ice dominance of their former Southeast Division rivals, beating them 5-1 on Friday night.
Riley Nash and Alexander Semin scored 87 seconds apart in the first period. Brett Bellemore, Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Sekera also scored, and Jeff Skinner had two assists to help the Hurricanes win their seventh in 10 games.
“It’s a little bit more fun when you’re playing with the lead,” Nash said. “In this league, especially, it’s tough to come from behind every night, so getting that lead is especially important.”
Carolina improved to 30-7-4 at PNC Arena against the Panthers, winning both meetings this season. Realignment sent the former division rivals in different directions, with the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan and Florida in the Atlantic.
Carolina pulled even with fifth-place Washington with 61 points in its crowded division, while Florida remains firmly in seventh place in the Atlantic.
“It’s really disappointing to see where our expectations are, and my expectations and everybody’s expectations have to be on the same page, and I think we have to raise them,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. “We have to expect more from each other, and I expect more from them because it’s certainly not desperate hockey, and it’s certainly not where it needs to be.”
Anton Khudobin stopped 34 shots in his 16th straight appearance for Carolina.
Nick Bjugstad scored for Florida, which enters the Olympic break having lost five of six.
“We put ourselves in this situation,” captain Ed Jovanovski said.
Tim Thomas stopped just 10 of the 14 shots he faced. He was pulled with 15:24 left in the second after Tlusty tapped in a rebound to make it 4-1.
Scott Clemmensen replaced him and stopped 16 shots.
Ten Hurricanes appeared on the score sheet and Skinner was the only one with multiple points.