RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Michael Leighton is back in the NHL. Gerrard Gallant is out.READ MORE: Celtics run past Heat 93-80, move 1 win from NBA Finals
Leighton but made 31 saves for the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night in 3-2 victory over Florida that turned out to be coach Gerrard Gallant’s last with the Panthers.
Florida fired coach Gallant after the game, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. Tom Rowe, who was promoted to general manager before the season, will assume the coaching duties, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the moves.
Leighton hadn’t been in an NHL net in four years and hadn’t won in six. He shrugged off a two-goal deficit as his teammates scored three goals in the second period, stopping 31 shots.
Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist to spark the rally, which stopped a two-game losing streak and a six-game slide in the series.
Viktor Stalberg and Derek Ryan also scored for Carolina, with Ryan getting his first of the season.
“Leighton was outstanding,” said Carolina coach Bill Peters said, whose team has won five straight home games. “Once it was 3-2 he made four or five good saves. He made a great glove save on (Alexsander) Barkov coming across the middle, made a save on a penalty kill on (Aaron) Ekblad coming around the back door. He made some great saves.”
Cam Ward had started the previous nine games in goal for Carolina. Regular backup goalie Eddie Lack has been on injured reserve under concussion protocol for six days, with Leighton called up from Charlotte of the American Hockey League to serve as backup.
Jonathan Marchessault and Ekblad scored for Florida, and Barkov had two assists.
“I’m happy to be back and happy to get a win,” Leighton said. “I felt better as the game went on. The first two goals were kind of fluky. As a team we knew we had to play better in the second period. We came out flying and that made my job a little easier.”
Florida goalie James Reimer had 24 saves.
Florida’s Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,651st NHL game, tying him with Chris Chelios for fifth in NHL history. The 44-year-old Jagr had a first-period assist.READ MORE: South Florida family knows firsthand effects of nationwide baby formula shortage
Jagr is a game behind former Pittsburgh teammate and former Hurricane Mark Recchi for fourth place. The Czech star has 1,127 assists and is eight behind former Hurricane Paul Coffey for fifth on that list.
“For five minutes we let them come back in the game,” Gallant said in his final interview as Florida coach. “They scored three goals, and that was disappointing because we played 55 good minutes tonight, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return.
Florida took a 2-0 lead in the first period, outshooting the Hurricanes 16-9.
Marchessault scored at 5:41 on a power play, picking up his 10th of the season when he followed Jagr’s shot to beat Leighton. The goal broke Carolina’s NHL-best streak of 25 consecutive penalties killed.
Ekblad followed at 9:51, with Barkov earning an assist.
Stalberg cut the lead in half at 5:21 of the second, beating Reimer glove-side.
At 7:12, Skinner tied it on a breakaway, taking a lead pass from Rask and roofing the puck past Reimer glove side. And then at 8:49, Ryan scored his first goal of the season, a power-play marker with the assist from Skinner after Ryan won a faceoff.
“It’s a big win,” Skinner said. “The last couple of games we’ve been right there and haven’t really found the way to get the result. Tonight after the first period we had a good response. We found a way to dig deep and get the result.”
NOTES: Florida alternate captain Jussi Jokinen played in 288 games for the Hurricanes from 2008-13. … Carolina D Noah Hanifin played in his 100th NHL game. … Hurricanes LW Brock McGinn (upper body) missed his second straight game, and D Klas Dahlbeck and D Ryan Murphy were healthy scratches. . Florida LW Shawn Thornton and D Dylan McIlrath were healthy extras. … The teams will play twice more this season, both in Florida on Feb. 28 and March 21.
Panthers: Visit Chicago on Tuesday night in the second of a six-game trip.
Hurricanes: At the New York Rangers on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game trip.MORE NEWS: South Florida woman's bout with COVID included hair loss: 'This isn’t normal shedding'
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