You could feel this coming from a mile away. Even while the Canes were trudging through a 1-3 road trip across most of Canada, the sense was that the Canes were a break or two away from breaking through and making a statement.
Wednesday night, that statement was made with a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks, the Canes' first win all season in which they trailed by two goals and their first win in which they trailed at the end of any period.
The Canucks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at 5:19 on a Kevin Bieksa wrister from 50 feet that made it through a screen in front of Cam Ward, who started his fifth straight game and was hung out to dry by Jaroslav Spacek in front of the net, who inadvertently bumped his goaltender and shielded Bieksa's shot from his view.
Not long after, a line brawl nearly broke out in front of Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider, after Jussi Jokinen and Keith Ballard exchanged face washes in the low slot. Former Canuck Bryan Allen was the most pugilistic of the Canes, scrapping with Canucks winger Aaron Rome in a rather spirited bout that earned them both fighting penalties.
The second period began inauspiciously for the Canes and could have easily been 2-0 about nine minutes into the period. The home team was lazy on a line change and gifted the Canucks a two-on-none from the faceoff dots in. Chris Higgins' backhand chance was snuffed out by Ward, and Bieksa nearly had his second of the game on the rebound but pool-cued the puck just wide of the Canes' goal.
A few seconds later, though, Mason Raymond did give the Canucks that two-goal lead at 9:51 when he outfought Eric Staal in the low slot and got his stick free to redirect a pass from Henrik Sedin. The assist was Sedin's 700th NHL point.
But then, the tide started turning.
Drayson Bowman got the Canes on the board with his first goal of the season at 15:52 with a perfect tip of an Anthony Stewart centering pass from the near corner. Just over three minutes later, Tuomo Ruutu was in perfect position to redirect an Allen wrister from the blue line that went up and over Schneider's shoulder to tie the game at 19:08.
Bowman then earned his second of the night just :37 into the third with a wide open look that beat Schneider cleanly after Chad LaRose drew two Canucks to him along the near boards and feathered a pass in between their sticks out to Bowman in the slot. It marked Bowman's fourth career goal, all of which were scored in pairs; in addition to tonight, his other two NHL goals came in an 8-5 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in April of 2010.
A few minutes later, the Bowman Show continued as he snuck behind the Canucks defense at 3:53 and he nearly had a breakaway goal for a hat trick had Schneider come up with his best save of the night to deny Bowman on the backhand.
Newly acquired Jaroslav Spacek, playing his first game as a Hurricane at the RBC Center, made it 4-2 at 6:12 on a power play goal, a gorgeous snap shot from 25 feet that beat Schneider and marked the fifth power play goal in four games for the beleaguered Carolina power play.
Alexandre Burrows then made the proceedings rather interesting with a backhander off a rebound at 8:40, joining the injured Daniel Sedin as the only Canucks with double-digit goals with his tenth of the season.
Ward, however, had some heroics up his sleeve to keep it a one-goal game, robbing Ballard on a point-blank wrister with eight minutes to go that should be in the conversation for the save of the year:
The Canes were then able to close out the final eight minutes and earn their second win under coach Kirk Muller, who was thrilled with the performance.
"It was a gutsy win for our guys. We just keep preaching that you have to believe in it and stay with it and some nights you may not get the bounce, and some nights you will. They stayed with it and we scored at the key times."
Speaking of Bowman's play, Muller said what many Canes fans have been dying to hear: "I know young kids have to earn their time, but I think you've got to put them into a spot where they can excel. If you just keep throwing them on the fourth line when they come up, they're just going to be out of their element."
- Bowman ended up with 19:07 in ice time, his most time on ice in any of his 35 career games and second only to Staal (22:20) among forwards. His eight shots led the team, followed by Tuomo Ruutu who had six.
- Spacek's power-play goal gave the Canes a streak of four straight games with a PPG, their longest such streak this season.
- Ward improved to 6-3-3 when making 30 or more saves this season.
- Despite taking the morning skate, Jay Harrison was scratched for the tenth straight game.
- The Canucks have not beaten the Hurricanes at the RBC Center since November 27, 2002. Granted, they've only played three times since then, but the Canes are 3-0 in those games.
Post game interviews: