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Hurricanes keep Panthers 7 back

The importance of keeping the Florida Panthers from gaining confidence was not lost on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Keith Primeau's goal 2:16 into the third period Friday helped the Hurricanes tie the Panthers at 3 and maintain their seven-point lead over Florida in the Southeast Division.

"Florida knows if they win this game they're only five points back," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "They have a half-season of games on us and would be feeling pretty good. This was a salvageable point for us and was key for us."

It was the second time this season Carolina tied Florida after trailing 3-2 heading into the third period.

Skating in alone on Panthers goalie Sean Burke, Primeau was taken down by Robert Svehla as he shot. Primeau collided with Burke, and both players were sprawled on the ice as the puck trickled into the net for the tying goal.

It was the 17th goal for Primeau, who also had an assist. Jeff O'Neill had a goal and an assist and ex-Panther Ray Sheppard had two assists. Sheppard has 26 points in his past 22 games.

"It's a big point for us," Sheppard said. "We didn't lose the lead we had on them."

Panthers coach Terry Murray had mixed feelings about the tie.

"I'm not satisfied but I'm not disappointed with it either," he said. "We played a good 65 minutes but (Arturs) Irbe made some big stops."

Florida fell to 10-1-2 when leading after two periods. The Hurricanes are 0-2-6 and Florida 0-2-7 in overtime games.