Say what you want about the Carolina Hurricanes' recent run of form, and many have, but one of these days the breaks were finally going to go the Canes' way.
It finally happened on Sunday, when the Canes jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then held on for dear life as the Los Angeles Kings came roaring back but eventually fell short, giving the Canes their first win in the final game of a five-game homestand with a 4-3 decision in front of 10,154 on Sunday afternoon at PNC.
Brett Pesce, who has been a revelation on the Carolina blue line since his recall a month ago, got the business started early, firing home a wrist shot that beat Jonathan Quick just 3:31 into the game for his first NHL goal.
"It was a roller coaster game, but at the end of the day we battled to the very end," said Pesce. "We got our bounces today."
Jeff Skinner doubled the lead less than two minutes into the second period, and Justin Faulk added a power play goal on 5-on-3 at 4:26 to give the Canes a three-goal lead. But halfway through the period, Noah Hanifin was whistled for covering his hand on the puck, despite his apparently correct protestations that he had done nothing wrong. Since the infraction occurred in the crease, the Kings were awarded a penalty shot, which Dustin Brown converted at 13:02.
Less than a minute later, Anze Kopitar pulled the Kings back to within one with an unassisted laser at 14:00. Suddenly, the Canes were back on their heels, and there were some clenched sphincters in the stands and on the bench.
"A couple of things swung the momentum in the game," said Canes coach Bill Peters.
But just as quickly, Faulk put the Canes back up by two with what proved to be the game-winning goal at 17:46, and despite a late Kings charge they were unable to pull all the way back, Kopitar's second of the game halfway through the third the closest they would come.
It was a very heavy game, one that Peters said opened some eyes of the young defensemen who found themselves in some serious physical battles most of the night. The Canes lost Nathan Gerbe for the game to a lower body injury in the first period, and Faulk, Elias Lindholm and John-Michael Liles all spent time in the Canes' locker room with various maladies, although all returned.
Lindholm in particular looked a completely different player than the one who coasted through most of Friday's game, leading all Canes forwards with four shots. "This is the best I've seen him skate," said Peters. "He was around the puck a lot and he had some chances. He was a real good player."
But again, like Friday, there is room for improvement. Half of the Canes' 29 shots came from defensemen, and each had at least one except Liles. By comparison, just six forwards had even one shot.
Peters appreciated the effort his team showed, though. "They are a big, heavy team. We needed to be hungry for points, and we found a way to get some today."
The Canes face another big team tomorrow night in Philadelphia, when the Flyers honor Rod Brind'Amour with induction into the team's hall of fame. For Peters' part, the fact that they get right back to it is a plus after a complete game, and the pomp and circumstance make it even more special.
"I was grilling [Brind'Amour] about what to expect. He's got twelve minutes for his speech, and I'm going to be there for all twelve. I can't wait," he said. "It's going to be an emotional evening, and we're going to feed off that energy."