RALEIGH, N.C. — It wasn’t pretty. At times, it was downright hideous. At least, to the 15,000 or so fans in attendance at PNC Arena who watched just over 56 minutes of scoreless hockey.
But to the Hurricanes (5-7-3), losers of five in a row and in desperate need of a win, the 2-1 overtime win over Philadelphia (4-9-1) was beautiful.
“It was a solid game,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal, who scored the game-tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation. “We got a lot of opportunities. We played a solid game. It was good to finally see us get rewarded with two points. There’s been a few bounces here and there, and it’s nice to see us working for our bounces and getting an opportunity to win the game.”
It took until the 16:02 mark of the third period for either one of these teams — among the lowest-scoring in the NHL — to get a goal, and it was Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell on a power play that struck first.
The Hurricanes had seen this movie before. And generally, it had always ended the same way, at least this season — a painful loss.
Not this time.
A little more than three minutes later, Staal got a pass from his brother Eric and scored his first goal at home this season (just his second all year).
“I was just telling (Eric Staal), ‘Great pass.’ I don’t think we’ve connected for one yet and it was a pretty special moment when we’re looking in each other’s eyes after a big goal,” Staal said.
And so after losing five in a row and not even having the solace of a moral victory to cling to for many of them, the Hurricanes are not going to apologize for winning ugly.
Nor should they.
“I think what we want to do is win battles, come up with the puck in the corners, play well defensively,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said. “That’s where we’ve got to be tough in terms of on the puck, and I thought that’s what we did a good job of tonight is going to the corners, come up with more pucks — a little more of a battle mentality as opposed to losing those battles and not retrieving pucks.
“That’s the way the game is today. It’s different. I thought we had a little bit better of a battle mode in terms of that desperation of coming up with more pucks than we have in some previous games.”
And it was a redemption story for some other Hurricanes, too.
Manny Malhotra was signed by the team to a one-year deal less than a week ago. It hadn’t been too long ago that it was thought he might not play hockey again.
And then 2:40 into overtime, he scored his first NHL goal since March 2012.
But he was just glad he could contribute to a win.
“Obviously, morale is key and to be able to come in here, try to bring some life into the room, bring some chatter, I think it’s just a little bit of a change for the guys, which is nice,” Malhotra said.
Carolina is down to its third-string goalie, Justin Peters, and he has had some good games even during this losing streak that haven’t resulted in wins.
That’s been the case with his team as well this year. And so Muller hopes this win shows his team that they don’t have to win the game by themselves. A team effort and each player doing his job will be enough, and it was against the Flyers.
“(Peters) needed that win. Let’s be honest. He felt like there was times when he was playing well but the end result you don’t win, it grows on you,” Muller said. “He, like everyone else, we’re like, no one has to be the guy that has to be the difference right now. Not with the situation we’re in. What we said was we have to do and come out of this together and everyone just do their job.”
And it was Carolina’s first overtime win of the season. So many times, the Hurricanes have been close enough to get a point or two but never to actually win the game outright.
When they allowed the goal, it seemed like they were going to have late-game heartbreak yet again.
“Those are tough ones, but like I said, we kind of stuck with our game throughout the whole 60 minutes,” Staal said. “For us to kind of rebound, it definitely shows the character and the leadership in this room that we can keep battling through some tough times, especially throughout games. It was nice to see us bounce back after that big goal Philly scored.”
While this win was fine, and it stops a skid that desperately needed to win, it won’t mean much if it doesn’t carry over.
This was the first of a five-game homestand for the Hurricanes, who have to keep their heads above water until they get at least one of their two primary goalies back from injury. So it starts on Thursday, when the New York Islanders — a team with just two more points than Carolina on the year — come to town.
“We’ve got to keep this moving. We’ve got to make this building tough to play in, and we haven’t done that yet,” Staal said. “I think tonight was the first stepping stone to make ourselves — we play really well in this building, and don’t let teams come in here and take two points.”