RALEIGH — Dan Ellis wasnt sure if hed be playing hockey anywhere this season, much less in the NHL.
But there he was Friday, a goaltender calm in net, sharp and in control, making all the stops as the Carolina Hurricanes shut out the Ottawa Senators 1-0 at PNC Arena.
The Canes (3-3) were making a last home appearance before heading out on a six-game road trip. Carolina coach Kirk Muller also had a decision to make: start No. 1 goalie Cam Ward or go with Ellis, the backup.
Ellis got the call, made 33 saves and earned his 13th career shutout, making Eric Staals first-period goal stand up. He also bettered Sens goalie Craig Anderson, who was named the NHLs player of the month for January with a 0.99 goals-against average and .967 save percentage.
"I think any time you can go out and get a win before going on a big road trip, it gives you a lot of momentum going into it," Ellis said, shying away from any personal praise. "You create some good habits and something to build off of."
Good habits, in the Canes case, would include good positional defensive play in front of Ellis. Carolina didnt allow the Sens (5-2-1), who led the Eastern Conference, many second chances and allowed just eight shots on goal in the third period.
The Hurricanes also were aggressive and effective on the penalty kill against a team that was sixth in the NHL on the power play. Muller rotated 13 players when the Canes were shorthanded as the Sens failed on four power-play attempts.
"Obviously that was a huge part of the win and a lot of guys contributed," Canes forward Jussi Jokinen said.
The Canes penalty killers earned an ovation from the crowd of 18,680 in the second period. Soon after Jeff Skinner just missed on a second Carolina goal the puck hitting the bottom of the crossbar but not crossing the goal line defenseman Jamie McBain was called for a double minor for high-sticking and cutting the Sens Chris Neil.
But the Canes killers got the dirty work done for four minutes, clearing the puck from the zone time after time to protect the lead.
The Canes found a way to get the puck past Anderson in first period. First, let Alexander Semin put on a skating exhibition, then have Eric Staal redirect a Semin shot.
Semin, who made hustling plays in all three zones, maneuvered around Sens defenseman Erik Karlsson at the top of the slot and winged a shot toward the goal. Staal got a piece of the puck for his fifth goal of the season with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the period.
"It found its way through," Staal said.
Ellis took it from there. A torn groin muscle kept the veteran goalie from playing most of last season with the Anaheim Ducks . He went into this season without a job but received a tryout with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
Ellis played so well winning the Checkers Jan. 6 game at PNC Arena against the Norfolk Admirals for the Canes AHL affiliate that he earned a roster spot and a contract from Carolina once the lockout ended. He relieved Ward in the season opener at Florida, then had 40 saves and was the winner in his first start when Carolina took a 3-1 road win last week over the Buffalo Sabres.
"I think those games in the American League gave me a chance to find my own game and stay fresh," Ellis said. "Its difficult to catch a moving train, kind of, the way the (NHL) season started with no exhibitions."
Ellis may be back in net Saturday when the Canes start the road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers. Muller said that decision would be made on the team flight Friday night.
"He looks very confident," Muller said. "Hes had a lot of games this year to prepare and its an opportunity for him. Like any athlete in pro sports, when you get the opportunity you have to take advantage of it."