Power Play: Hurricanes fight through slow start to down Devils

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes (28-36-10) won their second straight as they look to close out the season strong, beating the New Jersey Devils (31-32-12) by a 3-1 final after a rough start. The Hurricanes will finish out a five-game home stand tomorrow against Boston.

 

The Devils don’t always play the prettiest brand of hockey, and it can be difficult to play against. It looked that way in the early going as the Hurricanes took just nine shots in the first to five for the Devils and trailed 1-0 at the first-period break.

"It was a slugfest and it was in the trenches. Not a lot going on at times, but that’s just the way it is when you play against them," said Hurricanes coach Bill Peters. "They’re above you a lot in the neutral zone and they stay tight in the defensive zone. There’s not a lot of puck pressure. You’ve got to be willing to fight through traffic and when there is a play to be made, you’ve got to capitalize on it."

The Hurricanes only gave up five shots and two chances in the first, though, so Peters was satisfied with that. The only goal the Hurricanes gave up all game was on a power play.

"If you get impatient and start forcing things that aren’t there, then they get you in transition. So I thought our guys did a reasonable job staying with it as far as that goes, and then we dug in as the game went along," Peters said. "I thought our last 30 minutes were our best 30."

There are still a lot of young players out there for the Hurricanes, and it takes them some time to settle in — particularly against a team like that, captain Eric Staal said.

"Some nights as you start the game, the young guys are a little nervous moving the puck and not making plays like they can. Once they get comfortable and as the game goes on, they get better. Tonight was one of those nights," Staal said. "We didn’t move the puck very good to start the game and we got better and better as the game went on."

The Hurricanes outshot the Devils 23-17 in the final two periods and 10-8 in the first; after pulling ahead 2-1 in the first nine seconds of the third in spite of trailing less than two minutes earlier, that was all the confidence and boost they needed.

"It allows you to breathe. Now all of a sudden, you’ve been down one so within two minutes, basically — I think we scored at 1:42 and then at the 9-second mark — so within two minutes, you’ve erased the lead to the fact, and now you’re in the lead," Peters said. "You go down 2-0 against this team with 20 minutes to go and you’re probably in a little bit of trouble.

They’re going to shut it down and then you’re going to get frustrated trying to come through the neutral zone. I give the guys all the credit in the world for sticking with it."

"They’re not the most fun team to play against because of their system. You need to stick with your game and obviously key goals at key teams are important, and (Chris) Terry’s was a big one. Then we kind of went from there and it was nice to get that one early in the third to kind of set them back a little bit," Staal said.

Faulk has been one of the Hurricanes’ best players all year, and he not only ranks second on the team in points, but he also became the leader in points by a defenseman in a season with 47.

"He’s just a young guy coming into his own. He’s got a heavy, heavy shot. He’s got a real good shot. That’s just an evolution of a young D-man. That’s all that is," Peters said.

Next Up: Hurricanes vs. Bruins

That heavy shot, as Peters called it, is a lot more effective when it’s being utilized. Faulk didn’t shoot as much last season and changed that this year, scoring 15 goals already.

Peters didn’t tell him to shoot more, though, he said.

"No, I just kind of decided — I don’t know why," Faulk said, laughing. "Obviously it worked out all right. I just thought it would be better to just shoot pucks and get pucks to the net as opposed to throwing it around the boards, even if I missed wide. There’s always a chance for a tip but if you just put it down behind the net, nothing really comes from that."

He leads the Hurricanes in assists with 32 and in ice time (24:20 per game), too. He just keeps getting better and better.

"Once you gain that confidence in the ability to find pucks to the net, you’re able to score and capitalize. He obviously has a very hard shot. He’s only going to get better in that area, I think, and his overall game can even get better," Staal said. "He needs to keep that in his game because the way the game is now, you need to use your defensemen and you need to have them in the rush. You need to have them getting pucks to the net."

The rookie wasn’t supposed to be one of the main options for the Hurricanes this season. But after Jordan Staal’s injury, he took on a bigger role and he rewarded the coaching staff with his play.

He now has a streak of at least one point in four straight games with an assist in this one. He’s the sixth rookie since 1997 (when the team moved to North Carolina) to top 30 points, and he joins a pretty solid list — Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Jamie McBain and Shane Willis.

Considering all the draft picks and young players that haven’t panned out, this one is a nice surprise.

 

Cam Ward. In his second straight start, he stopped 21 of the 22 shots he saw and allowed just one goal — and that came on the power play. He looks to be back to normal after missing time with a virus.

Justin Faulk. His work this season offensively has been discussed, but in this game in particular, he had a goal and led the team yet again with 24:34 of ice time, adding two hits and four takeaways.

Eric Staal. The captain continued to set the tone, and he scored his 21st goal of the season to give the Canes the lead. This is his ninth season with 20 or more goals. He finished with a point, a +2 in the +/- and won 100% of his faceoffs.