The game’s first star wasn’t center Victor Rask, who had the winning goal.
It wasn’t goalie Cam Ward, who has become Mr. November for the Carolina Hurricanes.
It was Ron Hainsey, a defenseman who didn’t have a goal, didn’t have a save. What he did Friday was set up two goals and help save a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
At 35, Hainsey is the oldest player on the Hurricanes’ roster, where a 1981 birthdate seems like a misprint and is an anomaly. There are so many young guys on the team – defenseman Noah Hanifin and rookie forward Sebastian Aho both were born in 1997 – that No. 65 for the Canes might feel like he’s approaching Social Security age.
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But Hainsey is a stabilizing influence, Canes coach Bill Peters said.
“He’s been outstanding,” Peters said. “He flies under the radar. Everyone wants to talk about the young guys and the new guys in the league all the time. But he’s been as steady as they come.
“He can play the left side, the right side. He can go up and down and play with anybody. If you talk to the young guys, they love playing with him.”
Peters said Hainsey, who has played 851 career games, is always talking on the the ice, on the bench, communicating, offering advice. His defensive partner Friday was Justin Faulk, and Hainsey had some final words for Faulk even as they were leaving the ice after the game.
“I’m always looking to pick up on things Ronnie is talking about,” second-tear defenseman Brett Pesce said. “His mind, I mean he has hockey sense off the charts. He’s always open to questions, and he’s a good role model.”
Hainsey, a native of Bolton, Conn., is a no-nonsense type when it comes to talking to the media. His answers are frank, honest.
In discussing the victory over the Canadiens after the game, Hainsey said the Habs had the best of the play the first two periods.
“We just weren’t generating much,” he said. “We could not get any staying power in their end all of those two periods – maybe a shift or two. Obviously we were outplayed through two.”
But the Canes (6-6-4) generated three goals in the third period, and Hainsey had a hand in the first two. Jeff Skinner tied the score 1-1 when a Hainsey shot deflected off Skinner’s skate and past goalie Al Montoya. Teuvo Teravainen then got a piece of another Hainsey shot.
Rask gave the Canes a 3-1 lead, but the Canadiens, the Eastern Conference leaders, pulled within 3-2 on Andrew Shaw’s late redirection. The final four-plus minutes of regulation were strenuous, and Hainsey did some of the tough work in the defensive zone, once clawing the puck away from forward David Desharnais in front of Ward.
Hainsey also helped Ward out on the penalty kill in the second period, getting a stick on a loose puck in the crease just before the Habs’ Alex Galchenyuk could poke it in.
Though Hainsey has a good size at 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, he’s not a big banger or basher. But he had the game’s most noticeable hit, putting a shoulder into Montreal’s Paul Byron in open ice for one of his team-high four hits.
In the end, the Canes did enough to win. Or as Hainsey put it, “Maybe steal one.” That’s three straight for the Canes, who host the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, then play nine of the next 11 on the road.
“Getting the last win on this homestand is very, very important, getting points out of it,” Hainsey said. “A win would give us a great homestand.”
Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes
Sunday, 5 p.m., PNC Arena
TV/RADIO: FSCR, WMCM-99.9 FM