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FAIR WARNING: Hurricanes Roll Panthers 5-1; Florida Goes Into Trip on Slide as Playoff Hopes Disappear

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Panthers took off for their Olympic break a few hours earlier than scheduled as they fell behind and never came back in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

The Panthers, who are trending to miss the playoffs for the second straight season and for the 12th time in the past 13, don't play again until Feb. 27.

Florida heads into its winter hiatus with losses in six of eight games -- a run that realistically ended any hopes of the postseason.

Again.

"It's really disappointing to see where our expectations are,'' said coach Peter Horachek, who pulled Tim Thomas from net when Carolina made it 4-1 early in the second.

"My expectations and everyone's expectations have to be on the same page. We have to raise them. We have to expect more from each other. That certainly wasn't desperate hockey.''

Carolina, which still has to face visiting Montreal Saturday before its break, took control midway through in the first by scoring twice within a span of 1:27.

Although the Panthers got a goal from Nick Bjugstad to make it 2-1 with 4:30 left in the period, Carolina went into the intermission up 3-1 as Florida again failed to get the puck out of its own zone.

All three of Carolina's first period goals came when the Panthers couldn't get rid of the puck and allowed the Hurricanes to continue to work it around.

Reilly Nash scored off a Dylan Olsen turnover, Alexander Semin scored when Jonathan Huberdeau and Scottie Upshall couldn't clear it, and Brett Bellemore scored when Upshall failed to control possession.

Horachek replaced Thomas with Scott Clemmensen after the Hurricanes pretty much ended things a mere 4:36 into the second when Jiri Tlusty.

At the pace Florida scores, and the way it played defense Friday, this game was over early.

The Panthers did get plenty of chances with Anton Khudobin -- Thomas' understudy in Boston -- playing exceptional in making 34 saves. Florida had two big scoring chances early in the third but couldn't finish.

"We wanted to finish on the right note, get win going into the break,'' Huberdeau said. "We need to reset things. Everyone needs to come back ready to go.''

-- Horachek put defenseman Dylan Olsen back in the lineup on Friday with Mike Weaver being a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

Olsen could play games for Florida's AHL team in San Antonio during the break.

"He's 30-something years old and hasn't had the best success in the back-to-backs,'' Horachek said of Weaver.

 

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