RALEIGH — In the end, with the game on the line, Justin Peters was not going to be denied.
Peters had worked too hard to get another chance in goal for the Carolina Hurricanes. He had waited too long to get another NHL victory.
With the San Jose Sharks surrounding him Friday, with the Canes clinging to a one-goal lead in a frantic final two minutes, Peters made all the stops that needed to be made for a 3-2 victory at the RBC Center.
With 35 saves, Peters was named the third star of the game. Jussi Jokinen, who scored the winning goal and had an assist, was the game's first star and the Canes' Jeff Skinner was the second star.
But Peters was the man of the moment.
After 14 consecutive starts in goal, Cam Ward was given the night off by Canes coach Kirk Muller. In came Peters for only his third start of the season and his first at home.
"When you haven't played in a while it's tough, but he was ready," Muller said.
For two periods, the Canes (22-25-11) were in charge. Skinner and defenseman Justin Faulk scored goals in the first period - Skinner at even strength, Faulk on the power play - and Carolina was the fresher, sharper, quicker team.
"We lacked a lot of energy and jump and determination," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
San Jose (31-18-7), the Pacific Division leader, played Thursday and took a 6-5 overtime road loss from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Because of fog in the Raleigh area, they were unable to fly in until Friday morning.
For two periods, the Sharks appeared weary. But Dan Boyle and Brent Burns scored in the first four minutes of the third to tie the score 2-2, and suddenly the Canes were scrambling and the crowd of 18,680 was growing antsy.
But Jokinen's goal, with eight minutes, five seconds left in regulation, pushed the Canes back ahead. Jokinen, positioned between the circles, got a piece of a Jamie McBain shot from the point that Thomas Greiss - the Sharks' backup goalie - could not stop.
But the Sharks continued to push and attack, allowing their defensemen to jump into the rush.
"They went for it," Muller said.
In the final two minutes and 15 seconds of regulation, the Sharks had seven shots on goal. Greiss was pulled for an extra attacker, and in the last 33 seconds the Canes' Bryan Allen, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty all blocked shots while Peters deflected a shot by Logan Couture.
"I can't say enough for the job the (defense) did, not only at the end of the game but the whole game," Peters said. "They made a late push but we were able to hang on."
"Obviously there were some nerves. It's been a while since I've been in there."
Peters' last win came Jan. 9, 2011 - a 4-3 overtime victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at the RBC Center. The Canes then signed veteran backup Brian Boucher after the season and Peters, 25, began this season with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
Peters was named AHL goaltender of the month for November, but when Boucher suffered a lower-body injury in early December, Mike Murphy was the goalie called up from the Checkers. Peters finally got the call Dec. 14.
The Sharks managed six shots in the first period as Skinner scored his 16th goal of the season and Faulk banged in his fifth. San Jose had 13 shots in the second and 18 in the third.
"We did a great job the first two periods but they're a good team and they're going to come hard," said Jokinen, who scored his eighth goal of the season. "But we were able to regroup. We're finding ways to win games."
The Hurricanes, who play the New York Islanders tonight on the road, need to win a lot to have any hope of getting into the NHL playoff mix. Six of the next seven games are at home and the Canes need the points.