With only seconds left on a power play, seconds left in the game Sunday, Justin Faulk let it rip.
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman had a shot blocked, but the puck bounced back to him and Faulk didn’t miss on the second one. His quick wrister from the point found the net with 17 seconds left in regulation, giving the Hurricanes a 5-4 comeback victory over the Arizona Coyotes at PNC Arena.
The Canes trailed 4-3 in the final five minutes of regulation, but defenseman Ron Hainsey scored on a shot from the slot with 4:22 left and Faulk followed with his ninth power-play goal of the season after Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal was called for high-sticking.
“I didn’t know how much time was left,” Faulk said. “I just wanted to get it to the net and hopefully create something. The first one got blocked and I was lucky (and) able to get another crack at it.”
And just like that the Canes (10-13-4) got another victory, winning back-to-back games for the first time since late-October. Carolina edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 Saturday, then fought off fatigue in the third period Sunday for what Canes coach Bill Peters called a “character win.”
A day after being a healthy scratch against the Canadiens, forward Kris Versteeg responded with a goal and an assist and was active all game. Canes captain Eric Staal and Hainsey each finished with a goal and assist, and center Jay McClement scored his first of the season after hustling down ice to prevent an icing call.
“I have pride. I think we all do,” said Versteeg, a veteran who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup last season. “When you don’t play it hurts that, so you want to come back and be a contributor and help out.”
Versteeg’s goal, which tied the score 1-1 early in the opening period, was his first in 14 games and Staal’s goal was his first in 15. When Staal hammered a shot past Coyotes goalie Anders Lindback in the second period, he looked up to the rafters, his face showing more relief than celebration.
“It’s been a long while since I’ve seen one go,” said said, who had seversl near-misses against Montreal.
Staal centered a line with Versteeg and Elias Lindholm, and it was Versteeg who forced a Coyotes turnover that resulted in Staal’s goal — his fifth — on a Lindholm pass.
In a game of punches and counterpunches, Tobias Rieder and Nicklas Grossmann scored for the Coyotes (13-13-1) in the first while Versteeg and McClement each answered to tie the score. Staal had the only second-period score, giving the Canes a 3-2 lead entering the third.
But the Coyotes, looking to end a three-game losing streak, appeared to be the fresher team in the third and took a 4-3 lead as Stefan Elliott and Antoine Vermette scored — Vermette with 6:19 left in regulation.
The Coyotes had a chance to add to the lead when Canes forward Brad Malone was called for hooking with 3:38 left. But Hanzal high-sticked John-Michael Liles and Faulk scored with two seconds remaining in the Carolina power play after his first shot was blocked by Jordan Martinook.
Canes goalie Cam Ward allowed four goals on 23 shots Sunday in earning his ninth win of the season.
Faulk, who leads the Canes in points, is tied with forward Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks for the NHL lead in power-play goals.
“Having a lead going into the third and then losing it is sometimes tough to deal with and can kind of break a team,” Faulk said. “For us to stick with it and grind to get back and get that late goal is something good to see. If that’s a sign we’re growing, we’ll take it.”