RALEIGH — There are a couple of things that hadnt happened to the San Jose Sharks this season before the Carolina Hurricanes beat them 5-3 on Friday night.
The first is that they hadnt lost two consecutive games in regulation.
The Sharks have had two six-game winning streaks, one of the reasons why they were second in the NHL in points entering the game against the Hurricanes, but they generally have bounced back from disappointing outings by winning their next time out. Since San Jose lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh on Thursday, Carolina could count on getting San Joses best shot.
The second is that the Sharks hadnt dropped a game this year in which they led after two periods. Prior to Friday, their record in such games was 16-0-1.
Using an inspired four-goal third period and dynamic performances by a number of their players especially a three-point effort by rookie Elias Lindholm the Hurricanes found a way to overcome such daunting recent history.
All it took was what Carolina coach Kirk Muller said was the teams best game this year.
We said before, if we are going to play against a team like San Jose that is such a good hockey team, we have to bring our A game tonight, Muller said. This has got to be a big confidence builder for our guys tonight, to beat a team like that.
There was no shortage of players who excelled for Carolina.
Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, Jay Harrison and Riley Nash all scored goals. Zach Boychuk had an assist after being recalled from Charlotte earlier in the morning (forwards Patrick Dwyer missed the game with an upper-body injury while Drayson Bowman had a lower-body injury).
And while he let in at least one soft goal and appeared to be searching for his confidence, Cam Ward made 22 saves to earn the win after watching Justin Peters stop 46 of 49 shots in the Hurricanes wins over Washington and Nashville earlier this week.
But it is Lindholm who may receive the biggest confidence boost from Fridays game.
The fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft had a goal and two assists to lead the Hurricanes offense, scoring the game-winner with 6 minutes remaining.
With the score tied at 3, Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera danced around the perimeter of San Joses zone. He ultimately wristed the puck at the net, and Lindholm managed to get his stick on it and deflect it through the legs of San Jose netminder Alex Stalock.
That was the player that we drafted, Muller said.
For his part, Lindholm more or less shrugged off any assertions after the game that this could lead to bigger and better things. While his output matched his production for the entire season he now has three goals and three assists in 18 games Lindholm credited the work of linemates of Nathan Gerbe and Jordan Staal, who all had strong outings while combining for six points.
Sometimes it just happens, and I guess today was a day like that, said Lindholm, who had his first career multi-point game.
After the stinging loss to the Penguins on Thursday night, San Jose built an early 2-0 lead before the Hurricanes resolve stiffened. The goal from Harrison came in the second period, cutting the Sharks lead to 2-1. In its last seven games, Carolina has outscored opponents 17-4 in the middle period.
After Nashs goal 4:54 into the third period, Jordan Staal actually gave the Hurricanes a short-lived 3-2 advantage when Gerbe centered the puck into the crease from the corner. Staal jammed at the puck a couple of times, and Stalock couldnt freeze the puck before Staal knocked it into the net.
I think we were just doing a great job working off each other and creating offensive zone chances, Staal said. (Lindholm) had a great opportunity he played unbelievable tonight.
After Staals goal, San Joses Justin Braun tied the score with 10:25 remaining on a slap shot from the point.
While that moment might have deflated the confidence of a more fragile version of the Hurricanes seen in other games this season, all it did Friday was set the stage for a somewhat improbable victory. His brother, Eric, added an empty-netter after Lindholm's game-winner.
Together with the victories over Washington and Nashville, Carolina has won three in a row after home losses to New Jersey and Vancouver.
Its a big game, Jordan Staal said. We had talked about bringing our game consistently. We hadnt really done that this year. Three big games in a row really helps this team build and keep it move it forward.