RALEIGH — Cam Ward left PNC Arena on Monday night troubled, worried, and found himself unable to sleep.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ veteran goalie was concerned about fellow goalie Eddie Lack, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher after Monday’s game, after colliding with Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou as the Red Wings forward drove the net to score the overtime winner.
“When you see a good friend and teammate go down like that, unfortunately it puts things into perspective,” Ward said. “The game’s not so important anymore. You’re worried about your friend’s health and well-being.”
But Ward later saw a tweet from Lack saying “everything is alright.” He spoke with Lack on the phone. On Tuesday morning, Lack was at PNC Arena, smiling, joking around, being Eddie Lack, a little sore with a neck strain but otherwise OK.
“That put our minds at rest, to know everything was going to be all right,” forward Lee Stempniak said.
The Canes, relieved, finished off an unusual back-to-back pair of games against the Wings with a solid 4-1 victory. Ward had 21 saves as the surging Canes ended the Red Wings’ remarkable 25-season run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Canes still have hope after points in 12 straight games (8-0-4). That tied the franchise record set during the 2005-06 Stanley Cup season and kept pace with the Boston Bruins, who hold the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Canes (34-27-14) have 82 points, four behind the Bruins, who beat the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
“We’re coming to compete every day and it’s fun to have something to play for,” said Ward, who won the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. “We’re starving for the playoffs.”
Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom, playing his 200th career NHL game, had first-period goals as the Canes took a 2-0 lead. The Wings, limited to four shots in the first, made a push in the second but a goal by Carolina’s Jordan Staal was a deflator for a team playing its third game in three days.
“We were still in the game until the third goal,” wings coach Jeff Blashill said.
Elias Lindholm added a power-play goal late in the third for the Canes, who also got two assists from defenseman Justin Faulk and had 11 players notch points. Left off the scoring sheet was Jeff Skinner, who had goals in six straight games and points in seven. He had five shots in the game.
The Wings (31-33-12), who will miss the playoffs after 25 straight appearances, and Canes were to play their first game this season on Dec. 19, but poor ice conditions at PNC Arena forced a postponement. The game was rescheduled for Monday, for the Wings sandwiched between Sunday’s game against Minnesota and Tuesday’s scheduled game with the Canes -- the first time since 2003 an NHL team has played three times in three days.
Having Athanasiou miss Tuesday’s game was a factor. The speedy forward also was injured in scoring Monday’s overtime winner, hitting Lack’s head with the right side of his body as he was pushed from behind by Canes forward Victor Rask.
Canes coach Bill Peters said Lack jokingly said he “took their best player out, too.”
It did make for a nice night for forward Tomas Nosek, who was inserted in the Wings lineup and scored his first NHL goal.
And the Canes' 8-0-4 surge?
“We’re trying not to think too much,” Nordstrom said. “Just take it day by day and see where it takes us.”