The Carolina Hurricanes have been leading the NHL's Southeast Division this season without beating a divisional team.

The Canes knew that had to change, and they did something about it Saturday.

The Hurricanes ripped the Florida Panthers 6-2 in an increasingly physical game at PNC Arena that was the first of a home-and-home set. Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal each scored twice and Riley Nash picked up his first NHL goal and had two assists as Carolina took a two-point lead in the division.

"Our guys were ready to play and knew the importance of tonight's game," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "I liked our focus. We came out with good intensity and carried it through."

Jiri Tlusty, who has been on a tear, scored his 10th goal of the season and Alexander Semin had three assists for the Hurricanes (11-8-1), who were 0-5-0 against Southeast Division teams this season. They also were facing a team that was making a habit of frustrating and beating them.