RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes have been looking for answers to turn around their season: a bit of puck luck, a breakthrough on special teams, the ability to close out a win.
They got a little of all that Tuesday in front of 8,828 at PNC Arena in a 3-1 win over the visiting Florida Panthers.
Just before the midway point of the third period, Derek Ryan pushed Carolina (5-5-3) ahead by batting a rebound out of midair past Roberto Luongo for the game-winner to snap the Hurricanes’ four-game winless streak.
“It’s one of those games where we’re searching for that big goal and winning teams are able to find that big goal, especially at home, tied going into the third,” Ryan said after the win. “You have to make sure you get those points and get that big goal to roll into the win, so I’m glad we got that.”
While Ryan got his second goal in three games, rookie Roland McKeown — playing his second NHL game — assisted on each of Carolina’s first two goals for his first NHL points.
“In the second game, you kind of know what to expect going into it,” said McKeown, who played first NHL game Saturday. “So it feels good to win foremost, then the points are icing on the cake.”
McKeown, who was filling in for injured Brett Pesce, had key passes on each of Carolina’s first two goals to help an offense that has struggled to score in most of its first dozen games.
“I’m confident we’re going to have a real good player if we do the right thing in the development process with Roland McKeown, that’s what I’m confident in,” coach Bill Peters said.
Peters was happy overall with his team’s effort. The Hurricanes, as they have done of late, rained shots down on their opponent and dominated play even though they struggled to find results early.
Luongo, playing his 500th career game with Florida, earned a scoreless first period with 20 saves, six or seven of which required show-stopping stops by the veteran goalie.
Carolina looked like they’d finally get one past Luongo (45 saves) just 61 seconds into second, but the 38-year-old goalie made a lunging glove save on a wide open Jeff Skinner after a perfect setup from Ryan.
The Hurricanes finally found an answer at 12:17 of the middle frame. McKeown found partner Noah Hanifin with a beautiful cross-ice seam pass in the Florida zone. Hanifin fired a shot that rattled around the blue paint and was knocked in by Brock McGinn to make it 1-0.
“I don’t think you add up those two goals and they’re not 6 feet away from the net, right?” Peters said of Carolina’s first two scores. “Ginner’s in the blue paint or just out, obviously. Then Doc is right on top of the blue paint. Skinny had a real good look early in the second; that’s right at the blue paint. It’s no secret.”
Skinner’s slashing penalty less than a minute later gave Florida (4-8-2) its first man advantage of the night, and Vincent Trocheck cashed in. Trocheck flew through the Carolina zone with speed and waited out Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling (30 saves) to knot the score at 14:06.
Carolina went 0 for 6 on the power play, but its penalty kill saved its best for last in the third period. Tied 1-1 with less than 13 minutes left, the Hurricanes were sent down a man when Sebastian Aho was called for tripping.
The PK took care of business, and less than 30 seconds after the penalty expired Ryan got the go-ahead goal. The Hurricanes then iced it when Justin Williams added an empty net goal with 1:24 remaining.
“We know we have a really good team and we believe it, and we’re starting to put a little streak together so we can get on top to where we want to be,” Williams said.
Notes: Carolina outshot Florida 48-31. … Brock McGinn scored in his first career game against brother Jamie, a forward with the Panthers. Both were on the ice for the younger McGinn’s second period goal. … Williams finished with a goal and an assist and was on the ice for all three Carolina goals. His 11 points (two goals, nine assists) are tops on the Hurricanes. … McKeown is the second rookie defenseman to register two points for Carolina this season. Haydn Fleury had two assists in the Hurricanes’ win in Toronto on Oct. 26. … Carolina was credited with 13 blocked shots, five by Justin Faulk. … Scott Darling has stopped 53 of 55 shots he has faced the last two games.