The Carolina Hurricanes have spent a good portion of the past two weeks on the road and had mixed results.
They’re headed home for a long break with a nice road win, thanks to their top line.
Eric Staal had a goal and two assists, Jeff Skinner scored for the third straight game and the Hurricanes ended a four-game road trip with a 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
”It’s a big win for us. You look at the standings, you have to pick up points wherever you can,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. ”But it’s the way we won. At the end of a long road trip, we fought and played hard to beat a good hockey team.”
Playing on the road for the sixth time in seven games since Dec. 3, the Hurricanes withstood an initial flurry and goal by Phoenix to pull out an impressive road victory before getting five days off.
Justin Peters was solid and made some big saves down the stretch, stopping 37 shots.
Nathan Gerbe tied the game in the second period and Skinner put the Hurricanes ahead early in the third with his eighth goal in six games.
Staal put the finishing touches on it with an empty-net goal, giving his line — he skates with Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu — 16 goals and 17 assists since Skinner’s return from injured reserve on Nov. 21
”We are getting chances,” Skinner said. ”Sometimes that’s the way it goes, it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t. We got some chances and I was lucky to capitalize on them.”
Phoenix played a solid game, going up 1-0 in the first period on Paul Bissonnette’s first goal in two years.
The Coyotes had plenty of chances over the next two periods, but couldn’t get anything else past Peters, and lost a key faceoff in the third that led to Skinner’s goal.
”We weren’t bad tonight, but we could have been way better,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. ”We could have used a spark from somebody tonight and it didn’t come.”
Coming off a difficult stretch, the Coyotes had earned points in three straight games, including a 6-3 win over the Islanders on Thursday, despite missing several key players.
Phoenix was short-handed again against Carolina. Captain Shane Doan missed his fourth straight game with an illness, defenseman Derek Morris was out for the fourth straight game and left wing Lauri Korpikoski sat out his 11th straight.
The Coyotes have been getting by with production throughout their lines and the start of Saturday’s game was no different.
Generating some good early chances, Phoenix scored midway through the first period, when Jeff Halpern kept the puck in Carolina’s zone and found Connor Murphy at the right point. He fed a pass to Bissonnette in the crease and the fourth-liner redirected it in for his first goal since Nov. 19, 2011, against Buffalo and first at home since 2010.
”It’s just good for confidence, just getting chemistry with our line,” Bissonnette said. ”We’ve got guys in and out of the lineup and our line keeps changing, so it’s nice to play with the same guys and get comfortable.”
The Hurricanes took over after that.
Gerbe tied it at 8:50 of the second period, keeping it on a 2-on-1 and beating Smith to the glove side with a wrister for his seventh of the season.
Peters made a huge save late in the second period, stopping Antoine Vermette on a breakaway, and Skinner put the Hurricanes up by scooping up a loose puck off a faceoff and whipping a shot past Smith 3 minutes into the third to score in his third straight game.
Peters turned the Coyotes away when they turned up the pressure late, including a spectacular save against Mike Ribeiro.
”We talk about timely goals; he made some really timely saves at the right time of the game,” Muller said. ”He looks real confident.”
So do the Hurricanes after a big road win.
NOTES: Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt dropped the ceremonial puck before the game. … Hurricanes rookie C Elias Lindholm did not play after taking a hard hit against Calgary on Thursday. … Doan spoke during the second intermission and said he still doesn’t know what caused him to be sick the past 10 days, but has responded to medicine and is feeling better. No timetable has been given for his return. … Carolina’s Tim Gleason had an assist for his 100th point with the Hurricanes