RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey was talking to the media in the locker room Tuesday when goaltender Justin Peters walked by, giving him a big slap on the backside.
Talk about a fitting gesture. On a night when Peters was giving up too many rebounds and the Colorado Avalanche looking to jump on them and score, Hainsey and nearly everyone in the lineup gave Peters an assist.
The Canes emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at PNC Arena, handing the Avs their first road loss of the season. It also was the Canes first win over a Western Conference team and arguably the best team in the NHL.
What theyre doing over there isnt a joke, Hainsey said of the Avs (14-3-0). Theyre playing direct, fast, in your face as fast as they can. Its a really good young team but we were up to the challenge.
The line of center Jordan Staal and wingers Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe matched the Avs speed. The three were aggressive and effective all game, on both ends of the ice.
Staal scored the Canes first goal, on the rebound of a Gerbe shot in the first period. Dwyer made it 2-0 just 26 seconds into the second off a pass from Gerbe.
They did what they were supposed to do, Canes coach Kirk Muller said of the line. They checked a very good line and came out on top. We keep saying if you play well without the puck and do the right things, the offense will come.
That was probably Jordans best game this year. He looked like a big, strong center that can check and can contribute offensively.
Peters, making his eighth straight start in net, finished with 33 saves for the Canes (7-7-4). The only goal he allowed was Paul Stastnys power-play score in the second period, although the Avs Ryan OReilly and Gabriel Landeskog had attempts go off posts during the game.
Perhaps Peters biggest save came in the final seconds of the second period, on another Avs power play. Rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon was looking at an open net, but Peters gloved the puck out of the air with one second left in the power play and 15.7 left in the period.
That was a big confidence-builder going into the third with the lead, Muller said of the penalty kill.
The Avs were 6-0-0 on the road and 8-1-0 against Eastern Conference teams. But with Jordan Staals line muzzling the Avs line of Matt Duchene, PA Parenteau and OReilly, with the defensemen knocking away loose pucks around the net, the Canes held on to boost their record to 3-0-1 on the current five-game homestand.
A little 3-0-1 stretch after a bad stretch is good for us, Hainsey said. This is a situation where if we didnt put some wins together, we could find ourselves 20 games in with a little bit of trouble.
Scoring the first goal of the game was important against a team that was 12-0-0 when scoring first this season. Staal did that off the rebound of a Gerbe shot after some good forechecking by Dwyer behind the net.
Dwyer then scored his first of the season to start the second. After Staal made a play in the neutral zone, Gerbe passed from the left circle to Dwyer crashing the net to beat Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov.
They were skating so well, causing havoc, Staal said of his wingers. I thought our line did a great job of using our speed and doing all the little things right.
Things were hectic in the final three minutes of regulation as the Avs loaded up and fired away. Hainsey blocked a MacKinnon shot, Peters made some stops and Manny Malhotra blocked a shot by Parenteau with two seconds left.
The D helped me out a lot, Peters said. We talked before the game that we wanted to protect the house and we did that with the D clearing out rebounds. The forwards were back helping out, too.
The house is the area around the net. On Tuesday, it was protected.
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