After weeks of coming up empty on consistent solid efforts, the Carolina Hurricanes finally broke through on Saturday night.
Behind a 28-save performance from Justin Peters, the Canes snapped a seven-game losing streak and laid to rest a team record eight-game losing streak on home ice with a decisive 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Arena.
Coach Kirk Muller, visibly relieved after the game, said that his guys deserved every bit of the result. "I'm happy for the guys," he said. "They've been playing like that for a while, but they stuck with it, played the right way and got rewarded."
"We’re putting on a jersey with our name on the back & more importantly a crest on the front that we’re playing for," said Jay Harrison, echoing the pride and the determination that was evident throughout the lineup Saturday night.
The Canes had a good pace to start the game, but Milan Lucic's sixth goal at 6:07 put them in a familiar hole. Jaromir Jagr held off RIley Nash with one hand and made a pass to the left point with the other, and Matt Bartkowski's shot was tipped off Lucic's stick and through Peters' legs to put the Bruins on top.
Two minutes later, Jeff Skinner forced a turnover by Adam McQuaid and McQuaid made a nice pass to the Canes' Jordan Staal, who was all alone in front of Tuukka Rask but was unable to beat the Bruins' goaltender, who made 34 saves on the night.
The rest of the period saw the Canes fire 17 shots on Rask, and a spirited bout between Kevin Westgarth and Shawn Thornton at 14:14 gave the Canes a bit of added jump. Finally, after a second bout of the period between Zdeno Chara and Jay Harrison, the Canes capitalized on a power play. Jeff Skinner collected a rebound of an Alex Semin shot and banked a shot from below the goal line off Rask's right skate at 19:24.
The bad blood continued after the goal, with Nicolas Blanchard and Gregory Campbell trading blows off the ensuing faceoff. The Canes headed to the locker room with the crowd firmly in their corner and a 17-4 advantage in shots on goal.
"Westy did a great job," said Jiri Tlusty. "'Blanch,' you know what, he had a hell of a fight, and 'Harry' jumping Chara is something else. They did a great job for us."
The second period started strong for Justin Peters, denying Jordan Caron in a wild scramble in front of the net five minutes in, then using his blocker to deny a one-timer from Gregory Campbell. As a 5-on-3 expired midway through the period, Peters stunned Jagr with a highway-robbery glove save while spread eagle in the crease defending a one-timer.
"It was just desperation," said Peters. "They slid it over and it was pure desperation. I was just lucky to grab it."
Buoyed by the performance Peters was giving them, the Canes picked up the energy and it paid off at 14:06 when Tlusty gave the Canes their first lead of the night with a one-timer high to Rask's blocker side, off a no-look backhand pass from Eric Staal behind the net.
The Bruins weren't done yet, though. Tyler Seguin was the beneficiary of a weird bounce when the puck jumped Semin's stick, freeing Andrew Ference to give Seguin a breakaway from the blue line in. Seguin made no mistake, roofing a shot over Peters' glove at 17:57 to square things up on the scoreboard again, where it stayed as the period ended. Shots in the second period were 13-8 in favor of the Bruins.
As a Canes bench minor for too many men on the ice expired, Peters denied Jagr yet again four minutes into the third period, as he was left all alone for a one-timer in the near circle that Peters slid across confidently to swallow.
The Canes took their second lead of the night at 9:36 on a power play, their second power-play goal of the game courtesy of Joe Corvo, who one-timed a Marc-Andre Bergeron pass high over Rask's blocker. It was only the fifth time all year the Canes had scored two power-play goals in one game, and the third in the team's last 30 games.
Jagr singlehandedly tried to pull his team back into the game, with a multitude of shots in the third period on his way to 13 attempts for the game, but it was to no avail as Tlusty scored his second of the night into the empty net at 19:31 to seal the win.
Muller said that Peters' performance was the difference in making this a different result from all of the close-but-no-cigar decisions the Canes had suffered through recently. "The big thing tonight is that we got timely saves. That made a big difference."
"It was a great night for us," said Harrison. "The culmination of things going right and our effort being rewarded, I think, was a long time coming."
- The Canes' locker room was as lively as I've seen it in a long time after the game, and for good reason. The atmosphere was such that it was obvious a huge weight had been lifted off everyone's shoulders.
- By winning the final game of the season against the Bruins, the Canes avoided a season sweep, going 1-2-0 on the year against the B's.
- The Canes improved to 10-2-1 this season in games where they scored a goal in the final two minutes of a period; of their 107 goals, 20 have come in the last two minutes of a period, including two tonight.
- Tlusty's two goals give him a team-leading 19 on the season, and he also leads the Canes with seven multi-goal games this year.
- In the Canes' last seven games, they are 6-for-21 (28.6%) on the power play, and they've scored a power-play goal in three straight games.
- Saturday's game was the first time the Canes have had more than one fight in a game. The team has tallied 17 fighting majors so far this year, led by Westgarth's six.
- The Canes get Sunday off, although they'll likely be in attendance for the annual alumni fantasy game. They return to the ice Monday for the annual team picture followed by a practice before heading to Ottawa to start a two-game road trip.
- Click for postgame audio from Jay Harrison, Justin Peters, Jiri Tlusty and Kirk Muller.