The Carolina Hurricanes are suddenly playing well defensively and on the road. Struggles in both areas played a role in them being at the bottom of the Eastern Conference earlier this month.
Coming off a major confidence builder, the Hurricanes can continue their climb up the East standings Tuesday night if they beat the New Jersey Devils for the second time in four days.
Following a 5-1 home loss to the Devils on Dec. 3, Carolina was tied for the fewest points in the league with 20. The Hurricanes have since recorded 15 points (7-3-1), and the only East team with more in that span is first-place Washington.
''We're going the right way,'' coach Bill Peters said. ''We play more of a puck-possession game. Our D skate better and is very young. That's exciting.''
No win was more thrilling for his young players than they one they got Sunday, knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions and handing Chicago just its fifth regulation loss in 20 home games. Justin Faulk and Victor Rask scored in support of backup Eddie Lack, who stopped 35 shots and had his shutout bid spoiled with 3 seconds left in a 2-1 victory.
The win was even more impressive considering the Blackhawks were coming off a four-day break while the Hurricanes (15-16-5) had to travel after beating New Jersey 3-1 the night before.
Cam Ward started that game, needing to make only 19 saves, and should be back in net for the rematch. Ward and Lack have helped limit opponents to seven goals over the past five games, prior to which Carolina was allowing a conference-worst 3.06 goals per game.
“Any time you have that going, you get a little bit more comfortable,” Faulk said of the goaltending. “You can make a few more plays and not worry about turning it over too much when they're on their game.''
Sunday's victory made the Hurricanes 4-0-1 on the road after winning just four of their first 13. They've converted 8 of 17 power-play chances away from home this month after previously going 2 for 43.
Faulk has a league-high 12 power-play goals and didn't have an even-strength goal before scoring one in each of the past two games. The 23-year-old defenseman has 12 points in the last 10 games, helping Carolina into position to tie for 11th in the 16-team East and get within five points of a playoff spot with a win Tuesday.
The Devils (17-14-5) have fallen out by losing four of five, scoring one goal in each loss. The defeat to Carolina is their only game in the past week.
Kyle Palmieri scored his team-leading 15th goal early in the third period Saturday to tie the score before Faulk and Joakim Nordstrom answered for the Hurricanes.
''It just kind of got away from us in the third,'' said Cory Schneider, who had 22 saves.
Schneider had been 4-1-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average in six previous starts against Carolina.
Adam Henrique is second to Palmieri with 13 goals but has none in seven straight games, and Mike Cammalleri is next with 12 goals despite having one in his last nine.