RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Joni Pitkanen scored the go-ahead goal, and Manny Legace made 19 saves to help the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Matt Cullen had a goal and two assists, and Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen also scored for Carolina. While the Hurricanes remain near the bottom of the NHL standings, they're playing their best hockey with seven wins in their last nine games.
Cory Stillman scored the lone goal for Florida, which has lost four in a row. The Panthers have scored only four goals in that stretch to lose ground in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tomas Vokoun made several nice saves for the Panthers, making 26 stops in his 19th straight start.
The Hurricanes took advantage of a deflection to take the lead late in the second period. Pitkanen's shot from inside the blue line brushed off the skate of Florida's Gregory Campbell and changed directions enough to fool Vokoun.
Cullen added an insurance goal early in the third. After taking a nice breakout pass from defenseman Tim Gleason, Cullen skated in on Vokoun and dragged the puck behind him, hesitating long enough to open up space beside Vokoun's left pad.
Ruutu added an empty-net goal for Carolina.
Legace won his second game since Cam Ward was sidelined with a back injury. Ward isn't expected to return until after the Olympic break.
After a quiet first period, the Southeast Division's bottom two teams generated a number of quality chances in the second.
Jokinen extended his points streak to seven games and got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard first, cleaning up Staal's rebound for a power-play goal. Carolina entered the game having scored on only two of its previous 25 attempts with a man advantage.
Florida tied it when Stephen Weiss set up Stillman with a perfect cross-ice pass. Stillman, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, collected the puck in front of the net and quickly knocked it past Legace.
Ruutu returned after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury. He was injured while fighting Colorado's Darcy Tucker on Jan. 8.
NOTES: The NHL announced Tuesday that Carolina will open the 2010-11 season in Helsinki, Finland, against the Minnesota Wild. ... Gleason took a puck off the face in the second period. He received 12 stitches and returned to the game. ... New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was at the game.