The Carolina Hurricanes honored one goalie for his career milestone, then helped the other one post his best game of the year.
Anton Khudobin stopped 28 shots to earn his first shutout of the season in the Hurricanes’ 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
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The Hurricanes paid tribute to Cam Ward with an elaborate pregame ceremony to honor the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner whose 500th career game came earlier this week.
Once the puck dropped, though, the night belonged to Khudobin.
"You’re proud for your partner, and at the same time, you kind of put yourself in his spot, the way he performed," Khudobin said. "It kind of pumped me up a little bit, actually."
Khudobin had 10 saves in the third period to complete his fourth career shutout. It was just the second of the season for the Hurricanes and their first since Nov. 1, when Ward blanked Arizona 3-0.
Brett Bellemore and Jeff Skinner scored before Nathan Gerbe added an empty-netter with 10.4 seconds left.
The Hurricanes won for the fourth time in six games. Carolina, last in the Metropolitan Division, moved three points behind seventh-place Columbus.
"In this league, when you get the league and you can extend the lead, you’re in good shape," first-year coach Bill Peters said. "That’s what we did tonight, and when we broke down and needed (Khudobin), he was there."
Braden Holtby stopped 35 shots for the Capitals, who have lost three straight since winning four in a row.
Washington, which ranks seventh in the league with an average of 2.92 goals, was shut out for the third time and first since a 1-0 loss to Montreal on Jan. 31.
"The slow starts have kind of been killing us," Capitals winger Tom Wilson said. "They get up two goals and they played pretty good hockey the rest of the night, and we’re just battling back. It’s kind of a downward spiral from there."
Carolina was playing for the first time since trading winger Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg and defenseman — and reigning team MVP — Andrej Sekera to Los Angeles. The deals netted a prospect and three draft picks for the rebuilding club, which will almost certainly miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Meanwhile, despite their recent struggles, the Capitals entered with a nine-point lead over Boston in the race for one of the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots.
"The way things have been going the last four games, we have to change something," Wilson said. "It’s crunch time now, 20 games left, and it’s not the time you want to be playing bad hockey."
Bellemore put the Hurricanes up 1-0 with 2:39 left in the first when his wrist shot from the blue line got by a screened Holtby. Skinner made it a two-goal game with 9:45 left in the second when he beat Holtby from between the circles.
Bellemore finished an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick after getting into — and losing — a fight with Wilson in the second period.
"I feel great, now that we got the win," Bellemore said.
NOTES: Washington hit two posts in the first period, with LW Alex Ovechkin and LW Jason Chimera ringing the iron. … The Capitals had won five straight and nine of 11 at the Hurricanes’ PNC Arena.