<
>

Cole, Staal lift 'Canes over Panthers

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Another game at home, another victory for
the Carolina Hurricanes. At this rate, the franchise's record book
might soon be obsolete.

"It's not something we're focused on or talking about here in
the room," left wing Erik Cole said. "We're just trying to win
every game, and the points are the most important thing for us."

Those are adding up, too.

Cole and Eric Staal each had two goals to help Carolina tie a
franchise record for home victories by beating the Florida Panthers
5-2 Friday night.

Craig Adams also scored for Carolina, which improved to an
NHL-best 26-5-1 at home. That equaled the previous mark set 19
years ago when the team played in Hartford, but the Hurricanes will
have to wait nearly two weeks to break it.

Nine of their next 10 games are in the road, a stretch that
begins Saturday night in Pittsburgh, and the trip will begin with
Carolina holding the best record in the league.

"It's good to get out on the road a little bit," coach Peter
Laviolette said. "When it's over, trust me, it'll be time to come
home, but we've got a great group in there in the locker room. I
think the road trips once in a while are good for you."

Martin Gerber, in his first action since playing for Switzerland
in the Olympics, stopped 37 shots to improve to 5-0 this season
against the Panthers.

"Obviously, we keep putting him there when we play Florida,"
Laviolette said with a smile.

Gerber was particularly solid while the Hurricanes staved off a
pair of 5-on-3 power plays in the second period, including one that
lasted the full 2 minutes.

"For the most part, we were able to keep them on the outside,
and when they did get their chances, Gerbs made the big saves,"
Carolina center Kevyn Adams said. "That was a big part of the
game."

Bret Hedican and Cory Stillman each finished with two assists.

Florida lost for the second time in three games and remained
well outside the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. With the
trade deadline less than a week away, a decision will have to be
made on high-priced center Olli Jokinen.

Chris Gratton and Serge Payer scored for the Panthers.

"We had some chances but didn't capitalize, and that ended up
probably being the difference in the hockey game," Florida coach
Jacques Martin said.

Staal deflected in a shot by Hedican -- an instant after Cole
also got his stick on it -- to put Carolina ahead early in the first
period. Cole made it 2-0 on a beautifully executed 3-on-1 less than
4 minutes into the second.

He started it off by feeding the puck in the middle to Stillman,
and it quickly went to Hedican before coming back to Cole. A quick
shot got past Roberto Luongo.

Gratton cut the margin to one about 60 seconds later with a
power-play goal. After Adams increased it again, Payer made it 3-2
with a wraparound that narrowly got through Gerber's pads.

Cole got his second during a late man-advantage, and Staal added
an empty-netter in the final minute.

"We came in here for two points, and we got nothing," Payer
said. "Right now, we can't afford to be losing the two points.
We've got 22 games left, and that's 44 points. Nobody here doesn't
believe we can't get them all."

Game notes
The announced crowd of 18,094 was just short of a sellout,
which would have been Carolina's third in four games. ... Florida C
Joe Nieuwendyk went to the locker room with an apparent injury
early in the second period, but later returned. ... Before the
game, the Hurricanes assigned D Anton Babchuk to Lowell of the AHL.