Erik Cole scores in overtime as streaking Carolina beats Florida 3-2

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Erik Cole scored 1:59 into overtime on the power play and the Hurricanes beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 for their fourth straight victory.

It was Cole's 15th goal of the season. He put the puck into the right side of the net on a rebound after Ed Belfour had come out to the left edge of the crease. Cole has a point in five straight games.

Scott Walker's initial shot had caromed off Belfour and back out to Cole, who easily scored.

"(Cory Stillman) found a great seam over to Walks and Walks hammered one and it just came off right at me and I just reacted," Cole said. "I just tried to stop it but it came off so hard that it just bounced right off my stick and in."

The winner came with Jay Bouwmeester in the penalty box for a questionable tripping penalty.

"Seems anytime you touch a guy they fall down and you get a penalty," Bouwmeester said. "They got a lot of good players, guys who know how to put the puck in the net. So, little lapses, they take advantage of and it's something we have to get better at (avoiding)."

Ray Whitney and Justin Williams also scored for the Hurricanes, who won despite notching a season-low 15 shots in regulation.

Florida outshot the Hurricanes 36-17 overall.

"We weren't prepared to play the game, that's for sure. We kind of regrouped but we still didn't play a great game tonight," Whitney said. "Johnny (Grahame) played a great game for us. They did catch us on a back-to-back so that maybe was a factor but we're certainly happy with coming back (to win)."

The Hurricanes beat the Islanders 5-1 at home Friday night and then flew to Florida.

The Panthers scored just 24 seconds into the game when Olli Jokinen's slap shot from just inside the blue-line went over Grahame's glove. It was his team-leading 15th of the season. Jokinen has 27 points in 17 games at home, third in the NHL, with 13 goals on the home ice.

Florida went up 2-0 at 5:36 of the first period when Gary Roberts swatted the puck past a diving Grahame and into the right corner of the net.

Whitney, who has a point in each of the last four games, cut the deficit in half when he sent the puck between Belfour's legs at 10:19.

Williams tied it at 16:13 of the second. It was his 17th of the season, which ties Eric Staal for the team lead.

Carolina was able to withstand playing 3:39 down a man, spanning the end of the second and start of the third period, when Whitney was whistled for a high-sticking double minor.

"They're a team that doesn't quit. That's why they won the Stanley Cup," Chris Gratton said. "They fought right to the end. But, it's an unfortunate call in overtime. It's our job to go out and kill it but they did a good job of just working for their goal in overtime. It was a hard fought game for both teams and it could have gone either way."

Grahame made a great save on Ville Peltonen with just over four minutes to play in regulation.

The Hurricanes only had two shots in the third.

"It's really difficult to understand when you dominate a team," said Panthers coach Jacques Martin, whose team had come in on a season-high three-game winning streak. "We have to do some teaching about different aspects of the game. It's frustrating because we dominated, and we got one point instead of two."

Notes: Belfour made his fifth straight start, most by a Panthers goalie this season . ... Florida is 2-10 against fellow Southeast Division foes. ... Panthers RW Juraj Kolnik returned after missing the previous 15 games with a strained groin, although he only saw 6:33 of ice time. ... Hurricanes D Glen Wesley played in his 800th game with the Carolina franchise, formerly the Hartford Whalers. ... Whitney played in his 800th NHL game, but with multiple teams. ... Carolina D Mike Commodore left the ice after a hard check into the boards in the first period, but returned in the second.



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