The Carolina Hurricanes, behind 28 saves from Cam Ward and a two-goal effort from Elias Lindholm, defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Friday night in front of 14,241 at PNC Arena.
But that undersells the team effort that the win showcased. Jaccob Slavin, more of a revelation with every passing game, had two assists, as did Kris Versteeg, who is now one point away from 300 for his career. Jordan Staal scored the opening goal and assisted on the last of the night. Every defenseman played at least 16 minutes, but none played more than 23.
It was just what Canes coach Bill Peters wanted to see. "I thought it was a highly contested game, and so it should be within the division," he said. "We've got guys trying to get to the net, with and without the puck. That's encouraging."
Slavin, in particular, is continuously improving and it was his shot on the power play that Staal tipped in for the opener at 16:09 of the first, ending an eight-game dry spell with the man advantage. Spending the past few games paired with more-heralded rookie Noah Hanifin has been beneficial for both players.
"He's a very good player," Slavin said of his partner. "He has great skating ability, and that [goes] well with my game. We use that to our advantage when we're out there together."
Peters agreed, saying that Slavin has been continuously improving over the past few games and singling out his performance in Edmonton on Monday as his best effort of the season. Peters put his money where his mouth is, sending him over the boards to kill a two-man disadvantage in the second period alongside the indefatigable Ron Hainsey.
The Jackets' goal came on another two-man advantage, and it was a fluke of bad luck as a centering pass from Brandon Dubinsky deflected off John-Michael Liles' skate and past Ward at 9:41 of the second period. Five minutes later, though, the Canes took the lead back for good, on another deflection. This time, it was Lindholm doing the honors, tipping home a Hanifin shot from the left point.
Midway through the third period, Brad Malone caught Jackets captain Nick Foligno with a shoulder to the head. Foligno's head snapped back and he was down on the ice for a couple of minutes, then skated slowly to the room. Malone could face a disciplinary hearing from the NHL on a hit that was the definition of borderline - opinions varied even within the press box on whether the hit was legal.
The loss of their captain seemed to deflate the Jackets, although it did lead to a fight between Malone and Brandon Dubinsky halfway through the third period. Despite pulling goaltender Anton Forsberg with 2:40 remaining, they couldn't sustain any pressure and Lindholm iced it into the empty net with a minute to go.
It's rare in the NHL today to see an old-fashioned home-and-home on consecutive nights, but after a chippy game, the Canes and Jackets renew pleasantries tomorrow night in Columbus. Peters, a hockey lifer, looks forward to the challenge, and expects Ward to get another shift in the net tomorrow.
"I like it," the Canes bench boss said simply. "Tonight was the pre-scout for tomorrow's game. I expect a real high-end game tomorrow."