Whitney lifts Hurricanes over Panthers

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SUNRISE, Florida (AP) -- Ray Whitney made sure that an ugly game

had a good-looking finish.

Whitney scored 1:37 into overtime to lead the surging Carolina

Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday

night.

"It certainly wasn't a game you'd try to sell a new market on,

that's for sure," Whitney said. "We took the skill out of it.

We're proud of what we did. Obviously the point helps them, but

the two points certainly helps us."

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.

Carolina won four straight in six days.

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.

"It's better than nothing," Bouwmeester said of the one point.

"It's good that we battled back, but we put ourselves in that

position. I guess we'll take anything, but the extra point would

have been good."

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.

"You had your best players at the end, Cam Ward and Ray Whitney,

(come through)," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "What a play

for (Whitney). A win on the road against a team that works its

butt off every night, we're real happy with it."

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.

"We got rewarded for working hard," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer

said. "We played hard tonight right from the first period

through to the end."

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.

The play began after Carolina intercepted Florida's clearing

attempt just outside the blue line while making a line change.

"I think it could have been either too many men or offside,"

DeBoer said. "We had them for both. Take your choice. That

happens. We got a few of those go our way over the month. That's

something you have to deal with."

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.

"We're winning some games the ugly way, we're winning some

pretty games," Whitney said. We're winning in a bunch of

different fashions."

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.

"I think we played hard, we played well," DeBoer said. "We

played a good hockey game. Ward made some big saves for them at

critical times. It was a hard-fought point. Maybe we deserved

better, but that's the way it goes this time of year."

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