Aho lifts Hurricanes over Blackhawks 3-2
Aho snapped a tie with a power-play goal in the third period, and the Hurricanes beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night in their first game since Ron Francis was forced out as general manager.
”You’ve got to do your job no matter what,” Aho said, ”so just tried to focus on the whole game and just play the best game that you can.”
Justin Williams had a goal and an assist as Carolina stayed four points back of Columbus for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Jaccob Slavin also scored, and Scott Darling made 22 saves in his return to Chicago after he was traded to Carolina in April.
The Hurricanes (30-27-11) had dropped eight of 10, and new owner Tom Dundon announced a front-office shake-up on Wednesday night. Francis was moved from GM to a new role as the team’s president of hockey operations, and Dundon said the team will begin a search for a new GM who will report directly to the owner.
”It doesn’t affect what we do day to day, at all,” Williams said. ”There are no changes coming right now. Certainly he’s still going to be around. It’s not like we’re never going to see him again.
”There are obviously some changes being made and our product on the ice will probably determine how many guys are left here.”
Tomas Jurco and Patrick Sharp scored for last-place Chicago (29-31-8), which had won two of three. Jean-Francois Berube made 37 stops.
With Sharp in the box for interference, Aho tipped Teuvo Teravainen’s shot by Berube 4:35 into the final period. It was Aho’s team-high 24th goal of the season.
”I saw the puck all the way and just tried to get a piece of it and tip it in,” Aho said.
Carolina controlled most of the first two periods, outshooting Chicago 28-14, but the Blackhawks stayed in the game behind a pair of nice plays.
Jurco redirected Brent Seabrook’s slap shot by Darling for a 1-0 lead at 6:02 of the first. After Slavin beat Berube with a slap shot through traffic, Sharp made it 2-1 when he backhanded a rebound into an open net at 15:06 before being pushed to the ice by Carolina forward Jordan Staal.
Williams was sent off for hooking with 62 seconds left in the first, but he stepped out of the box early in the second, got a long stretch pass from Elias Lindholm and beat Berube high on the glove side on a breakaway at 1:06. It was Williams’ fourth goal in five games and No. 14 on the season.
Carolina then had a chance to go in front, but Berube made a solid glove save on Brett Pesce’s breakaway midway through the period.
”We got the lead there but it was a fortunate couple of plays,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We didn’t play very well. Puck management is something we talk about a lot, and that second period was tough.”
NOTES: The 23-year-old Teravainen leads the Hurricanes with career highs of 34 assists and 53 points. He was traded by Chicago to Carolina in June 2016. … The Blackhawks announced another contract extension for one of their young defensemen, agreeing to a one-year deal with Jan Rutta that runs through next season. The 27-year-old Rutta has six goals and 13 assists in 44 games in his first NHL season. D Erik Gustafsson, who turns 26 on Wednesday, agreed to a two-year extension on Tuesday. … Quenneville coached his 1,607th regular-season game, matching Al Arbour for second-most in NHL history. … Lindholm had two assists. ”I thought he was the best player in the game,” coach Bill Peters said.
Hurricanes: Visit the New York Rangers on Monday night.
Blackhawks: Visit Boston on Saturday afternoon.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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