The Carolina Hurricanes keep hanging around, hanging in.
While the games are running out in the season and they aren’t in playoff position, the Canes still believe anything is possible.
“I like where we’re at,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Sunday. “We believe we can still get in. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep playing hard.”
It took some hard play on Easter Sunday to put away the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena. The Canes won 3-2, getting two goals from center Victor Rask, but had to be physical, smart and effective in the third period to nail down the victory.
The Canes (33-28-15) moved past the Devils (36-32-8) in the Eastern Conference standings and now trail the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the final wild-card playoff spot, by four points. The Flyers, who have 85 points, have two games-in-hand on the Canes while the Detroit Red Wings also have 85 points.
Some would say it’s too much to overcome, and it may be. Just don’t tell the Canes that with six games remaining.
“We believe in ourselves,” said Rask, who has 20 goals in his second NHL season. “We’ll just go out there every game and do our best.”
Rask’s first goal Sunday came 36 seconds after defenseman Ron Hainsey had given the Canes a 1-0 lead in the first with a four-on-four backdoor score off a Jordan Staal pass. On a four-on-three power play, Elias Lindholm followed up a Justin Faulk shot, finding Rask open in the slot.
Rask, who had a season-high seven shots, picked up his second goal on a breakaway early in the second period, taking a Jeff Skinner stretch pass and beating Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood with a forehand – the Swede’s fourth goal in the past three games.
“This is the end of the season when you want to play your best, and I feel good,” Rask said.
The Canes led 3-0 and had outshot the Devils 16-4. Wedgewood had been brilliant in his first week in the NHL after being an emergency callup from the AHL, allowing two goals on the first 93 shots he faced, but appeared vulnerable Sunday.
But the Devils, slowed by 15 penalty minutes in the first, fought back in the second. Bobby Farnham and Travis Zajac scored in a 40-second span and it was a 3-2 game.
Canes goalie Cam Ward, who had 23 saves in his first victory since March 10 at Boston, kept the Devils from tying the score midway through the third, denying Joseph Blandisi on a breakaway.
The Devils pulled Wedgewood in the final minutes of regulation for a sixth attacker, but the Canes dug deep and made enough plays to earn their first home-ice victory since March 8 against the Ottawa Senators. Joakim Nordstrom made a key block in the final minute for the Canes, leaving his feet to get in front of shot by Andy Greene.
Carolina absorbed a tough-to-take 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday at PNC Arena and play the Isles again Tuesday in Brooklyn. The reality for the Canes, who have points in 10 of the past 12 games, is that they may need to win all six remaining games and get some help to secure that last wild-card spot.
“Everyone in the league knows where everyone stands,” Skinner said. “For us, it’s a matter of focusing on ourselves. Just come to the rink, take care of our business and get two points every night.”