RALEIGH — Bryan Allen had a game-winning goal before Tuesday.
Allen, in fact, scored an overtime winner against the Carolina Hurricanes last season at the RBC Center when the big defenseman played for the Florida Panthers.
But Allen's winner Tuesday against the Nashville Predators seemed fitting. It gave the Canes a 4-3 victory in a hard-fought game against a talented team, and it came just a day after there was much speculation he might be dealt at the NHL's trade deadline.
"It's that time of the year when things are up in the air," Allen said. "It's a hard time to deal with, especially when your name is involved."
Eric Staal had a goal and two assists for the Canes (24-26-13), and Cam Ward returned from an injury to make 26 saves. Staal and Tim Brent scored power-play goals, Jamie McBain had one score and Jeff Skinner earned two assists with some hard power-play work around the net.
But the play everyone was talking about was Allen's breakaway.
Allen was called for slashing late in the second - the Canes' only penalty of the game - and was in the penalty box when the third began. But the Hurricanes killed off the penalty, Allen jumped out of the box and Staal quickly got him the puck with open ice.
Allen, not exactly a speedy type at 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, had not scored in 94 games. But he powered a shot past Predators goalie Anders Lindback for a 4-2 lead at 1 minute, 28 seconds of the third.
Asked to rate Allen's breakaway shot, Staal smiled and said, "If it's in the net, it's as good as you can get."
Gabriel Bourque scored for the Preds (37-20-7) less than a minute later and Nashville - playing a day after beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 - fired 16 third-period shots at Ward.
On Saturday, the Canes couldn't hold a two-goal lead in the third against the Panthers, and eventually lost 3-2 in a shootout.
"I thought we were good the last 10 minutes of the game, really tightening down and not giving them a lot," said Staal, who extended his point streak to nine games.
Ward had missed the past three games with a lower-body injury as Justin Peters took over in net and gave the Canes strong play. Ward said he was a little shaky early Tuesday but settled in.
"I was anxious to get back in there," he said. "The first couple of periods I didn't have a lot to do. Come the third period they came at us pretty good."
Craig Smith scored a first-period goal off a rebound for the Predators, and Colin Wilson scored in the second after forcing a turnover.
Before Tuesday, Nashville had not allowed a power-play goal in seven games. But it took six penalties and gave up two power-play scores in the second period against the Canes.
On the first, Staal cleaned up after Skinner put a shot on net and the puck bounced off his chest. On the second, Brent pushed the puck past Lindback during a scrum in front of the crease.
The Predators, fifth in the NHL's Western Conference, picked up forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad in trades Monday. Kostitsyn played Tuesday but Gaustad was held out. Dealt by the Panthers to the Canes on the trade deadline last season, Allen scored his first goal as a Hurricane.
"He's a character guy and he's been playing great against the top players," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "Obviously the game-winner is icing on the cake for the way he plays."