RALEIGH, N.C. -- It was bad enough that the Panthers haven't scored a power-play goal in their last nine games, and was 0 for 5 Saturday night to stretch their abject run of extra-man futility to 30 straight failures.
Now they're giving up goals with a man advantage as a previously slumping Alexander Semin scored twice in the third period, including a shorthanded dagger to deal the Panthers a 3-2 loss in the PNC Arena, or better known as the house of horrors where Florida has won just nine of 40 since the building opened before the 1999-2000 season.
Tied at 1-1 after two periods, the Hurricanes took the lead just 2:31 into the third as center Eric Staal beat rookie Nick Bjugstad on a draw, and got it back to Semin, who buried a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle into the far corner for just his seventh goal of the season.
"That is an area we may have to take a look at different people," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said of the power play. "It's frustrating, the third period, we get back to where we want to be.
"They got a faceoff where (Bjugstad) won the faceoff, hit himself in the foot, went right back to their guy and our own defenseman screened the goalie. We have to find a way to get one of those. Obviously, Semin has a good shot, too. Timmie (Thomas) didn't see a thing. And the third goal was unforced.
"It's not the end of the world, but it's something we have to learn fast."
Just a day earlier, Semin, a prodigious scorer with the Capitals, was called out by Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford for his lack of production. Sleeping Russian bear, anyone?
Then another Hurricanes' penalty at 6:59 gave the Panthers power play No. 5. That's supposed to be a good thing, right? Wrong.
A turnover by defenseman Tom Gilbert turned into a breakaway shorty goal by Semin. He deked Thomas, who must feel like General Custer these days, and the veteran had his first multiple goal game with the Hurricanes in his second season to make matters difficult at 8:57.
However, the Panthers didn't hang their heads and with 5:39 remaining, Tomas Kopecky redirected a blast from defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to make it a one-goal deficit again. From there the Hurricanes dominated puck possession, allowing backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who's in for injured starter Cam Ward, to pick up his seventh victory (37 saves).
For the second straight game the Panthers' opponent stormed out of the gate and had Thomas under fire during consecutive power plays (separated by five seconds), but the two-time Vezina Trophy winner kept it scoreless after one.
The Sharks pelted Thomas with 21 shots in the scoreless first period of Thursday's 3-0 loss to San Jose. While the well-rested Hurricanes -- who hadn't played since absorbing their second straight shutout loss on Monday -- only held a 15-13 shot advantage, at least seven of those were primo scoring chances.
"If you're not physical on (Semin) he figures it out and picks it up as the game goes on," said Thomas, who had 36 saves, many spectacular. "It's frustrating. ... It wasn't the same situation (as San Jose loss). We made mistakes that were preventable."
Just 3:37 into the second period the Hurricanes finally broke into Thomas' icy abode, and it was an old friend who initiated the assault. Defenseman Brian Campbell couldn't clear the puck as Radek Dvorak, the Panthers all-time leader in shorthanded goals, kept the puck in Carolina's zone before flicking it on net. The rebound caromed to young center Riley Nash, who backhanded it home.
Dvorak tried to give it back with a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Kopecky's noggin. The Panthers' lone close call against Carolina's 25th-ranked PK units, came on Kulikov's bullet shot off the inside post.
Panthers center Drew Shore was stymied on a breakaway by Khudobin, but they finally broke through at 15:05. Struggling forward Jonathan Huberdeau pounced on a loose puck in the offensive zone, slithered in and slid a sweet pass across the crease to Marcel Goc, who potted No. 9, for a 1-1 tie after two periods.
"We got to find a way to battle through and make sure we bury our chances," said slumping forward Tomas Fleischmann. "We have to simplify things. Scoring power play goals is the key."
The 20-18-9 Hurricanes and 18-23-7 Panthers may no longer be Southeast Division foes, but they're in a similar boat in the sea of desperation trying to climb into the Eastern Conference playoff conversation before the Olympic break in three weeks.
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