Higgins breaks tie in Panthers' victory

Chris Higgins broke a tie late in the second period and the Florida Panthers went on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 7-4 on Friday night in the first game of a home-and-home set.

Stephen Weiss added two goals, including an empty-netter, to help the Panthers rebound from a 4-3 home loss Wednesday night to Atlanta in which they set a franchise record with 55 shots.

David Booth, Mike Santorelli, Marty Reasoner and Michael Frolik also scored for Florida, which outshot Carolina 50-31.

Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun was pulled only 10:49 into the first period after giving up two goals. Scott Clemmensen replaced him and ended up with 23 saves.

Erik Cole, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov for Carolina, and Cam Ward stopped 43 shots.

The teams will meet again Saturday night in Carolina.

Down 5-4 in the third period, Carolina had a great opportunity when the Panthers were called for two minor penalties at the same time. But Florida held Carolina without a shot on the power play until Reasoner drew a holding penalty with 21 seconds left in the two-man advantage.

Higgins made it 4-3 with 3:17 left in the second period when he took a centering pass from Dvorak and beat Ward to the stick side with a wrist shot that bounced off the post.

Reasoner increased the lead to 5-3 at 2:26 of the third when he one-timed Dvorak's pass from behind the net. Samsonov closed the gap to one at 4:47 when he tipped in Jay Harrison's shot from the point.

The teams were tied 3-3 after a wild first period.

After Gleason's goal chased Vokoun, Florida's Weiss and Santorelli scored to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Ruutu scored 7 seconds after Santorelli to make it 3-3.

NOTES: Florida F Cory Stillman left the game in the first period because of an upper-body injury and did not return. ... Florida D Keaton Ellerby was recalled from Rochester to replace Jason Garrison, who missed the game because of a groin injury. ... The home team won every meeting between the Panthers and Hurricanes last season. ... Carolina F Jeff Skinner, who came in leading all NHL rookies with 10 points, was held without a point. ... Florida established a franchise first by playing its 11th game to start the season without going to overtime. The Panthers went the first 10 without an overtime game during the 1995-96 season.