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NHL: Carolina 3, Florida 1

March 21, 2012 at 10:02 PM

RALEIGH, N.C., March 21 (UPI) -- Eric Staal scored in the first and third periods Wednesday, helping the Carolina Hurricanes continue their late-season push with a 3-1 victory over Florida.

The Hurricanes, who started the evening five points out of the eighth playoff position in the Eastern Conference, won their fourth in a row.

Florida, which sits atop the Southeast Division, had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Staal opened the scoring 46 seconds into the game and the Hurricanes led the rest of the way. He gave Carolina a 3-1 cushion with a power-play goal midway through the third.

Joni Pitkanen put Carolina in front 2-0 with 9:05 to go in the middle period.

The only goal scored against Cam Ward came from Tomas Fleischmann. Ward made 30 saves.

Jose Theodore stopped 36-of-39 shots for the Panthers.

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