Nathan Horton and Radek Dvorak each had a goal and an assist and Florida claimed its first victory here since 2002 on Friday by beating the Hurricanes 4-3 to prevent them from clinching the Southeast Division.
"We're saving some face with the season," Montador said. "We're doing the best we can, in spite of the fact (that) we're not in the playoffs. These games are crucial for other teams, and not necessarily for our playoff picture, but certainly these last two games, we're excited about playing because we're going to have a say in what's to come.
"If you're not dealing with your own fate, it's nice to have a say in somebody else's."
Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov and Trevor Letowski each scored for the Hurricanes, who would have clinched the division with a victory. They outshot Florida 46-17 and were penalty-free while the Panthers were whistled for nine.
"It's tough any time you get close to 50 shots on their goalie and still (don't) come away with enough to win," Staal said. "There were lots of chances, obviously. A ton of shots. A few lights-out saves. We just didn't capitalize enough and we were one short."
So, instead for Carolina -- which had a five-point division lead with six games remaining, only to lose three of four down the stretch -- it will be an agonizing weekend of scoreboard watching.
Surging Washington would clinch the division title by earning one point against Florida on Saturday night. The division goes to the Hurricanes with a Capitals loss in regulation.
"It feels disgusting. We just needed to win two of our last four, and we go 1-3," left wing Ray Whitney said. "How we lost this one, not only is it frustrating and it hurts, (but) you hate to sit back and hope you're going to get help. ... We've got to hope (the Panthers) do the same job tomorrow night as they (did against Carolina). I doubt they will. Washington's taking care of their business like it means something, and it's just frustrating that we let this one slip away."
Tomas Vokoun stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced in the first before leaving with back spasms and giving way to Craig Anderson, who finished the game and made 26 saves for the Panthers. Cam Ward made 13 saves in his 20th straight start for Carolina before he was pulled for an extra attacker with about 1 ½ minutes left.
Samsonov had pulled Carolina within one goal by scoring on the power play midway through the third period, taking a feed from Whitney and one-timing it high and past Anderson's glove side to make it 4-3. But Anderson was impenetrable after that, making flashy save after flashy save to seal Florida's first victory in Raleigh since a 2-0 win on Dec. 6, 2002.
"We had chances in the third," Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley said. "We faced adversity all year, and unfortunately, we got the one (goal), but we didn't get the second one that we wanted."
For the Panthers over the years, the RBC Center had become a house of horrors after Carolina went 14-0-0 with one tie against them since then. Florida blew a pair of late three-goal leads here last season and allowed a two-goal advantage in the third to slip away in a 5-4 loss in February.
"I've been answering questions before about giving up two-goal leads in this building," left wing David Booth said. "It shows character that even though we're out of the playoffs, we can hold on to that lead and beat these guys."
This time, Florida wouldn't allow the Hurricanes to get any closer than one goal after the first.
Staal pulled Carolina within 3-2 late in the second when he scored a power-play goal -- the first allowed by Florida in seven games -- but Dvorak re-established the Panthers' two-goal lead five minutes later by adding a short-handed goal with 14 seconds left in the second.
Horton gave the Panthers their first two-goal advantage earlier in the second when he skated past the Carolina defense, took a pass from Ville Peltonen near the blue line and beat Ward with his breakaway wrist shot to make it 3-1.
"We control everything now," Horton said. "They're going to be watching and wondering what we're doing."
|Eric Staal tries a diving wraparound, but is not able to beat Tomas Vokoun until later. (AP)|
|Florida (38-34-9) «||2||2||0||4|
Save Pct.: .929
Majestic Panthers Hat Trick Pullover Hoodie - Red/Ash
$64.95 Shop Now!
|07:25||Trevor Letowski (9), Backhand Shot. Assist: Chad LaRose|
|11:38||Jay Bouwmeester (15), Slap Shot. Assist: Radek Dvorak, Jozef Stumpel|
|13:06||Steve Montador (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nathan Horton, David Booth|
|10:13||Nathan Horton (27), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ville Peltonen, Magnus Johansson|
|14:39||Power Play - Eric Staal (38), Wrist Shot. Assist: Joe Corvo, Ray Whitney|
|19:48||Short - Radek Dvorak (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Gregory Campbell, Bryan Allen|
|07:59||Power Play - Sergei Samsonov (14), Wrist Shot. Assist: Ray Whitney, Joe Corvo|
|05:04||Dvorak, 2 min, Tripping|
|17.0||Cullimore, 2 min, Hooking|
|12:33||Montador, 2 min, Delay of Game - Puck Over Glass|
|13:00||Olesz, 2 min, Delay of Game - Puck Over Glass|
|18:58||Skrastins, 2 min, Closing Hand on Puck|
|02:09||Kreps, 2 min, Hooking|
|05:57||Kreps, 2 min, High-Sticking|
|06:45||McLean, 2 min, Slashing|
|09:18||Jokinen, 2 min, Tripping|
|Shots On Goal|
|Power Play Conversions|
|Attendance - 18680|
|Referees - Dennis LaRue, Mike Hasenfratz|
|Linesmen - Don Henderson, Thor Nelson|