SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Panthers got back on track in their playoff push.
Jose Theodore made 34 saves for his third shutout of the season and the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Sunday to maintain the Southeast Division lead.
Tomas Fleischmann scored in the second period, and Marcel Goc added an empty-net goal.
The Panthers, a point ahead of Washington in the division race, won for the second time in their past six games, and have beaten the Hurricanes in all four meetings so far this season.
``When you look at the scoreboard and you're up by one goal, you know every save is big,' Theodore said. ``I was just seeing the puck well. The guys were playing well in front of me. At this time of year, it's all about competing and playing playoff hockey, and that's what we did tonight.'
It was Theodore's first shutout for the Panthers on home ice.
``Hopefully, it's not the last one. It's always fun to have a shutout, but it's really a team effort,' Theodore said.
Cam Ward stopped 31 shots for Carolina. The Hurricanes were shut out for the first time since Nov. 18 in a 1-0 loss to Buffalo.
``I knew it was going to be another tough match tonight,' Ward said. ``The way the standings are shaping up this was an important game for our team. I believe we threw everything we had at them.'
The Hurricanes had just five shots in the first period but picked up the pace as the game went on.
``The guys played hard. We played last night and came in with an hour time change so it's like a 4 o'clock game,' Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. ``I thought we emptied the tank and gave it everything we had tonight.'
Fleischmann scored at 3:22 of the second. Stephen Weiss brought the puck off the side boards, then passed back to Fleischmann. His snap shot from above the left circle went between Ward's pads. It was Fleischmann's 22nd goal of the season, tying him with Kris Versteeg for the team lead.
Goc added an empty-net goal with 1:32 left.
``We're disappointed we don't have a little more separation from where we feel we should be right now,' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. ``We felt in the last couple of months that we have given up points. This was our goal, to be relevant going into the end of March and into April. That's right where we're at.'
Florida had a goal disallowed after a video review with 3 minutes left after Jerred Smithson kicked in a loose puck during a scrum in front of the Carolina net. A shot by Weiss was blocked, and the puck went off Smithson's skate and into the net.
NOTES: Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty missed the game because of an upper-body injury. ... Florida RW Jack Skille was scratched because of a lower-body injury.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved