Hurricanes surrender late lead, lose in OT to Panthers

Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with center Aleksander Barkov during Florida's 3-2 win Wednesday over the Hurricanes in Raleigh. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — If the Carolina Hurricanes want to beat the Florida Panthers this season, they’ll have to wait for the playoffs.

Florida’s Sam Reinhart scored with an extra attacker on the ice with just 48.3 seconds and Aaron Ekblad flew the zone and scored the winner at the start of overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 win in front of 16,986 Wednesday at PNC Arena.

Florida clinched a series sweep of the Hurricanes with the win, although Carolina managed two points with two overtime losses in the three games.

Had it been the postseason, those two games might have gone on much longer — and given the contempt the two teams showed for each other, Wednesday might as well have been a playoff game.

“You could definitely feel it in the atmosphere. It was an excited game,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “Two good teams battling it out.”

The Hurricanes looked like they were on their way to finally beating Florida when they scored early in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

Nino Niederreiter and Staal won puck battles down low and got the puck to Tony DeAngelo at the blue line. His wrist shot made it through a Jesper Fast screen and hit Florida defenseman Gustav Forsling’s boot, elevating the puck past Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (16 saves) for his ninth goal of the season to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead at 3:13 of the third period.

While it appeared Carolina was in the driver’s seat, it was Florida that took command the rest of the way.

The Panthers outshot the Hurricanes 11-2 in the final 20 minutes but had trouble solving Frederik Andersen (28 saves). Florida finally did with Bobrovsky on the bench for an extra attacker.

Carolina shot wide on two empty-net attempts, and an Ekblad slash on Andrei Svechnikov — “What do you want me to say?” Brind’Amour lamented on the non-call — kept the Panthers’ hopes alive.

They finally converted when a MacKenzie Weeger point shot created a rebound that Reinhart fired into the open net to tie the game with 48.3 seconds remaining.

“You’ve got to give them credit, they put the gas on,” Brind’Amour said of the third period.

Florida came into overtime with all the momentum and took advantage of it.

Staal appeared to win the opening faceoff of overtime, but the puck bobbled off Teuvo Teravainen’s stick and to the Panthers.

From his own goal line, Jonathan Huberdeau fired a saucer pass to a breaking Ekblad, who had snuck behind Teravainen, past the red line, and the Florida defenseman deked and backhanded a shot under Andersen’s right arm for the win just 36 seconds into OT.

“Just a high-end play right there. … in OT sometimes it goes like that” Aho said of winning play.

The loss left Carolina with just one win in their last five games, through Brind’Amour said his team, win or lose, is ready to move onto the next game as soon as the last is over.

“The better team won tonight. … Good game, bad game, you move on. It’s always flushed.”

Notes: Teravainen scored late in the first period for his 12th goal of the season and has points in all three games since returning from injury. … Sebastian Aho had just one shot attempt and no shots on goal. It was the fourth time this season he hasn’t registered a shot on goal and third time since Jan. 22. … Carolina had 18 shots on goal, its fewest in a game this season. The previous low was in the Hurricanes’ 5-4 win at Los Angeles when they had 20. … The Hurricanes failed to score on two full minutes of 5-on-3 time in the first period.