- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

SUNRISE, FLA. (AP) - Ray Whitney scored 1:37 into overtime to lead the surging Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Eaves also scored for Carolina, which improved to 8-1-2 in its last 11 games and moved past Pittsburgh into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Jay Bouwmeester and Cory Stillman scored for Florida, which has lost six of seven. The Panthers tied idle Montreal for eighth in the East with 81 points. Florida has played one more game.

Cam Ward, in his 22nd consecutive start for Carolina, made 37 saves. Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots.

The Panthers, who went 1-2-2 on their five-game homestand, welcomed back forward Nathan Horton. Their second-leading goal scorer had missed six games because of a finger injury.

Whitney scored his 24th goal of the season when he one-timed a cross- ice feed from Joni Pitkanen inside the left circle.

Carolina led 2-1 until Stillman tied it with 4:05 left in the third period during Carolina’s 5-on-3 power play. After Ward deflected Horton’s pass from the side of the net, the puck was knocked over to the side during a jam in front. Stillman was there to put a shot home.

Eaves scored the only goal of the second period at 19:47. After taking a short pass from Rod Brind’Amour, Eaves skated around defenseman Karlis Skrastins and lost control of the puck as he cut to the front of the net. The loose puck went off Eaves’ left skate and off the leg of the sprawling Vokoun before trickling in.

Ruutu tied it 1-1 at 13:47 of the first period with a power- play goal. Vokoun stopped Anton Babchuk’s slap shot from the point, but Ruutu grabbed the rebound as he was skating in from the side of the net. He skated around Vokoun and flipped the puck into the top of the net.

Bouwmeester opened the scoring at 8:30 after Carolina turned over the puck behind the net. Stillman stole Babchuk’s no-look backhand pass and fed Bouwmeester in the slot. Bouwmeester beat Ward with a low wrist shot to the blocker side.

It was Florida’s NHL-leading 44th goal of the season by a defenseman, setting a team record. The Panthers established the previous mark during the 1995-96 season when they advanced to the Stanley Cup finals.

Notes:@ The teams split the six-game series. … Sergei Samsonov had an assist on Eaves’ goal to reach 500 NHL points. … Carolina played without C Matt Cullen, who sustained a lower-body injury in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Washington. He is expected to play Wednesday when the Hurricanes host Ottawa. … Panthers D Nick Boynton, a healthy scratch for eight of 11 games after he was sent home during a road trip, was in the lineup.

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