RALEIGH, N.C. — It seems like the Carolina Hurricanes (6-7-3) have rarely played with a lead this season.
It had been awhile, actually — the last time Carolina scored first was the last time they faced the Islanders back on October 19 in New York. They won that game, too.
Radek Dvorak scored the first goal just 6:39 into the first period, and the 1-0 cushion held up against the New York Islanders (6-7-3).
“It was nice,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said. “It was a little almost unusual when we got that first one. It was a good feeling. It looked like we felt comfortable with the lead as well, which is really good.”
It’s tough to hold a 1-0 lead for that long, but the Hurricanes’ defense was fantastic and goalie Justin Peters turned back all 21 shots he faced. It was the second straight win for the Hurricanes, yes, but it was also the second straight for Peters, the third-string goalie that has been up and down for much of his career and was much in need of some confidence entering this five-game homestand.
He should have plenty now after his third career shutout (first since March 2013).
“I feel confident and I feel really confident in this team. I feel really confident in the trust we have in each other, and I feel that’s building and I feel that’s been building for awhile now. It’s nice for the guys to get rewarded with the hard work they’re doing and the way we’re playing and the trust we have in each other,” Peters said.
“I want to be there for the guys. I want to make the saves I have to.”
He was right, though. He needs help, whether it’s in the form of offensive support or his defense getting blocks and disrupting opponents at the net. The Hurricanes had to do plenty of that, especially at the end when the Islanders pulled their goalie, Kevin Poulin.
His teammates know him well — Staal referred to him as “Petey” — and they have confidence in him. The know he’s going to have his good and bad moments, but they’re confident that if they help out in front of him, he’ll play as well as they need him to play to keep this positive momentum going.
“We’ve always been confident with Petey,” Staal said. “He’s had some up-and-down games, but I think for the most part when we’re playing the way we can in front of him, it goes to show tonight – he makes it look easy after that. He’s getting more confident and we’re more confident in front of him, even more so than before. we’re very happy to play in front of him.”
While the Hurricanes being down to their third goaltender was thought to be their biggest problem, the lack of offense is still an issue.
But head coach Kirk Muller, defensive-minded by nature, is not going to complain about winning a game 1-0. Or just winning a game, period. But he knows the Hurricanes need to find a way to generate offense.
“We’ve gotten timely goals in the last two games, but we’re going to keep pushing and some guys are going to break out of it and one of these nights, it will happen,” Muller said. “But until that does happen with a big offensive outbreak, we’ve got to stay the course as far as playing well defensively and playing with confidence like that that we can win a 1-0 game. And if you can, that’s a pretty good feeling as a team to know you can play that type of hockey.”
Muller said, too, that having veterans like Dvorak (who recently returned from injury) and Manny Malhotra (who joined the team on October 31) on the fourth line has been a calming influence.
“There’s certain times in the game where all of a sudden the momentum changes and not in our favor. Now you have a line that you can throw out and they just stabilize everything,” Muller said. “You just can’t replace it. They’ve gone through their experience of playing these games and they’re showing it.
“In the times right now where we’re in a losing streak and we need no one to hit the panic button and just stay the course is what we’re preaching, these guys are going out and doing it and they’re getting results. They’ve been a big contributor in these last two games.”
This team is getting tougher as a result, too. Not only are the Hurricanes refusing to get caught up in the various momentum shifts of a game, but they are also getting a little feisty.
This isn’t a team that gets in a lot of fights, but both the diminutive Nathan Gerbe and Brett Bellemore got into skirmishes with the Islanders during the game.
“I think it’s just competing. Gerbs is not a big guy, but he works hard and he gets into those areas and he competes hard to come up with the puck and battle. He can irritate guys a little bit by doing that,” Muller said. Bellemore’s just a big, solid defensemen…and can frustrate an opponent by the way he plays that hard game.
“They’re hockey players. They want to play. For both of them, it’s a great opportunity this year for them to play and they just try to make the most of it.”