Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. was smiling in the locker room Friday at PNC Arena.
General manager Ron Francis was smiling. Canes coach Bill Peters was smiling.
Down the hallway, goaltender Cam Ward was smiling as he was surrounded by media, after making 35 saves and being named the game’s first star in a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not that Ward was given the fireman’s helmet as the Canes’ MVP. That went to center Jay McClement, who did a lot of the gritty work on the penalty kill, who was active and aggressive when the Jackets twice had two-man advantages.
For the Canes, there was much to like about the victory in the first of two games against the Blue Jackets. In a scheduling rarity, the two teams finish up a home-and-home set Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, in what could be another bruising game.
Elias Lindholm, who had gone without a goal the past 12 games, scored twice for the Canes (17-18-7). Jordan Staal had a goal and assist, and Chris Terry also scored as Carolina ended a three-game winless streak in which they scored three goals.
“The focus and intensity was there,” Ward said. “We were able to weather the storm early. We got in some penalty trouble in the second when maybe we were a little too amped up and need to control our discipline, but it was a solid effort by everybody.”
The Canes were beaten Saturday in overtime by the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena, then picked up just one point on a two-game road trip to Western Canada. There was a five-hour flight home Thursday from Vancouver, which might have caused some sluggishness in the first 10 minutes, and center Victor Rask was out with an upper-body injury.
The Canes thought they had seen the last of defenseman Seth Jones after the game against Nashville. But in a trade this week that had the NHL buzzing, the Blue Jackets acquired Jones while sending center Ryan Johansen to the Preds.
Jones, paired with Ryan Murray, was minus-2 in his first game with the Blue Jackets (15-24-3) but could prove to be a key addition for the Metropolitan Division team.
Lindholm’s scoring drought had been puzzling. The Swede has one of best shot releases on the team but had not scored since Dec. 11 against Anaheim.
But the winger, positioned in the low slot, redirected a shot by Noah Hanifin at 14 minutes, 35 seconds of the second period, then picked up an empty-netter in the final minute for his fifth and sixth of the year.
Jordan Staal’s goal also came on a re-direct, during a first-period power play and was the Canes’ first power-play goal in nine games. Terry gave the Canes a 3-1 lead in the third with his fourth goal, off a Jeff Skinner pass.
“I love the greasy ones, I love the deflections,” Peters said. “I love the fact we’re getting the puck towards the net, to the net … and we’ve got guys trying to get to the net with and without the puck.”
Brandon Dubinsky scored the Jackets’ only goal in the second on the first of two 5-on-3 power plays for Columbus, his shot glancing off the skate of Canes defenseman John-Michael Liles. Columbus soon had another 5-on-3 in the second but the Canes were able to kill it off.
The Jackets had other scoring chances – a shot off the crossbar by David Savard, a potential goal by Cam Atkinson that was reviewed but ruled to have been incidental contact with the goalie by Atkinson.
Things were chippy in the third after the Canes’ Riley Nash absorbed a big hit in the corner from Jared Boll, and the Canes’ Brad Malone had a blindside hit on Nick Foligno that ended Foligno’s night and could get Malone a call from the NHL. Malone and Dubinsky later dropped the gloves to trade punches.
“I thought it was a highly contested game and so it should be within the division,” Peters said.
And should be again Saturday.