There was a sense of both celebration and relief. There were smiles in the locker room afterward, for once, and the joy that comes with hard-earned victories.
The Carolina Hurricanes are winless no longer. The Canes finally picked up their first victory of the season, and gave Bill Peters his first coaching win at Carolina, by beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-0 on Saturday at PNC Arena.
With Cam Ward confidently taking care of the goaltending, with winger Elias Lindholm scoring his first two goals of the season, the Canes were in control from the start. Jiri Tlusty added a power-play score late in the second period -- Tlusty's team-high sixth goal -- and the Canes took care of all the details that lead to wins.
"It's huge relief," said Ward, who earned his 22nd career shutout with 25 saves. "Obviously, this is what we're striving for, to win hockey games, and it's been a rough road up until now.
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"As tough as it is to stick with it, the guys stuck with it (Saturday) and got rewarded for it."
The Hurricanes were 0-6-2 in October, the worst start in franchise history. Team captain Eric Staal called it embarrassing, and Peters also took a firm stand Saturday in making underperforming forward Alexander Semin a healthy scratch.
The Canes face the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Sunday at PNC Arena, and Peters said he wasn't sure of the Canes' lineup. But he said was pleased with the effort of the 18 skaters Saturday. And, of course, Ward.
Ward, moving well, seeing the puck well, picked up his 225th career victory. He also was given a red fireman's helmet as the star of the game -- a new team award Peters had been saving and waiting to hand out after victories.
"We don't have a name yet and need to come up with one," Peters said, smiling. "We haven't cracked that out for a while."
The goalie usually receives the puck after a shutout but Peters got it this time -- a satisfying memento, for sure.
"You know what, I'm happy for the guys," Peters said. "They laid it on the line. Winning hurts to a certain degree. There should be icebags on (after games). You should be blocking shots, paying a price and selling out. That's what you have to do."
Forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer, back in the lineup after being sidelined with injuries, gave the Canes some needed hustle and grit. But everyone in a black Carolina sweater, it seemed, did their part and made plays.
"We had speed tonight," Peters said.
The Canes killed off penalties against the NHL's second-best power-play team. They battled for pucks. They forechecked effectively and pressured goalie Mike Smith, who had 32 stops.
Lindholm, who had been pressing in the offensive zone, scored both goals off rebounds in the first as the Canes took a 2-0 lead. His first came almost four minutes into the period -- only the second time this season the Canes have scored first in a game -- and his second following up a Justin Faulk shot from the point.
Ward had a close call in the first when he bolted out of net to play the puck ahead of an onrushing Antoine Vermette of Arizona. The puck hit a sliding Vermette, skidding back just wide of the post.
Tlusty scored after Smith left the crease to play the puck in the corner and attempted to clear, but Faulk stopped the puck near the blue line and put a shot on net. Smith made the stop but Tlusty was there for the rebound.
Faulk, who had two assists, was hit by a deflected puck in the final minute of the first, leaving the ice bleeding. He returned in the second period wearing a full cage.
"It's been kind of tough, losing," Lindholm said. "Now we got the win, we can build from there."
Scouts from eight NHL teams attended the game. Also watching from the press level was Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
And Semin. A healthy scratch for the first time with the Canes, he had a nice overhead view of the Canes' first win of the season.