Well, maybe it’s not that good, but the Carolina Hurricanes will take it just the same.
A day that began with the announcement that Andrej Nestrasil would miss the rest of the regular season with a fractured vertebra ended with a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“It’s a good step for us,” said Eddie Lack, who made 29 saves.
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Joakim Nordstrom scored the winning goal with 1 minute, 29 seconds left to snap a three-game losing streak. The Hurricanes improved to 29-26-10 with their second win against the Devils in four games this season.
The teams will meet once more, March 27 at PNC Arena.
A soporific match throughout, New Jersey took the lead 10:54 into the first period as Andy Greene’s shot from the top of the left circle ricocheted off of Tyler Kennedy’s leg, then off Adam Henrique’s body before finding its way past Lack.
The Henrique goal was Lack’s lone mistake in an otherwise strong performance. His most significant stops came late in the first when he made a pad save on Kyle Palmieri to keep the deficit at 1-0 and on Kennedy’s right wing drive during the third.
“He was real good,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said of Lack, who last started on Feb. 18. “He made the saves he needed to make.”
Despite being outshot 9-5 in the first – and 30-19 for the game – the Hurricanes still were in hailing distance, which became significant when Derek Ryan tied the score with a power-play goal 4:36 into the second period. The goal was his first in his first NHL game, as he was called up with Ryan Murphy and Brock McGinn from the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers on Monday night following the trades of Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Lilies. Murphy and McGinn also played against New Jersey.
With Carolina on the man advantage because of John Moore’s slash of Phillip Di Giuseppe, Jacob Slavin found Ryan along the half wall with a pass. Ryan walked to the right circle before firing a shot that beat Cory Schneider.
“I definitely saw the opportunity and wanted to shoot,” said Ryan, who was in the starting lineup along with McGinn. “It’s emotions you can’t even describe.”
From there, the score remained tied until Nordstrom’s game-winner, although both teams had a chance to break the deadlock in the third period.
Early in the period, Schneider stopped Brad Malone to conclude a sequence which began with the Hurricanes’ right winger outracing Greene to a loose puck in the offensive zone, then splitting the New Jersey captain and his defense partner Adam Larsson before firing a shot that the New Jersey goaltender swallowed.
Schneider stopped 16 of 18 shots.
Lack repaid the favor by turning away Kennedy with 6:09 left to keep the score tied.
“Eddie stood on his head,” Ryan said.
Nathan Gerbe added an empty-netter.
The post-Eric Staal era began with an announcement that Nestrasil would miss the rest of the season with a fractured vertebra, suffered during the 3-1 loss at Toronto on Feb. 25. In his second season with the Hurricanes, Nestrasil recorded nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in 55 games. All were career highs.
Along with Nestrasil, Jay McClement and Justin Faulk also were out. McClement missed his third straight game with an upper body injury; Faulk has missed four games with a lower body injury.
Before the game, the NHL and NHL players Association announced that the initial rosters of the eight teams participating in the World Cup of Hockey will be released Wednesday. Team USA’s roster will be revealed at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” The possibility exists that Faulk could be named to Team USA. The 37th pick in the 2010 draft, Faulk was a member of the 2014 Olympic team, played on the 2012 and 2013 World Championship teams and the 2011 World Junior team.