The Carolina Hurricanes began the week by not making a move at the NHL trade deadline and five points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Things appeared a bit bleak.
But a 3-1 victory Friday over the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena gave the Canes back-to-back wins and five points in their past three games. Just like that, they’re back in a playoff spot.
Teuvo Teravainen’s goal at 9:37 of the third period pushed the Canes ahead 2-1 as Brett Pesce’s point shot glanced off Teravainen’s leg in front of Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid. Justin Williams sealed it with a late empty-net goal, his third score in two games, off a Jordan Staal assist.
Goalie Cam Ward, playing a back-to-back set for the first time this season, earned his 19th win of the season with 25 saves.
The Canes’ win, coupled with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ loss to Anaheim, landed Carolina back in the second wild-card playoff berth. The Canes (29-25-11) and Blue Jackets each have 69 points, but the Canes hold the tiebreaker edge with more points in their season series. Just behind the Canes and Jackets: the surging Florida Panthers with 68 points and games in hand.
“I think our guys are committed to seeing where we can get to and how high we can get,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “We believe we can make the playoffs and we want to make the playoffs and we’re competing at a level that can give us a chance.”
The Canes, after Monday’s trade deadline, lost in overtime on the road at Boston, stretching their winless streak to six games but picking up a point. They bounced back Thursday by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on the road, then returned home to outlast a Metropolitan Division rival that had beaten them twice this season.
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon was in the building and brought some friends, including former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who sounded the warning siren before the game.
Derek Ryan had a second-period goal for the Hurricanes, a score matched late in the period by Devils forward Taylor Hall.
Hall’s power-play score, his 29th goal of the season, extended his point streak to 17 games. He also became the eighth different player in the last 30 years to record at least one point in 24 or more consecutive appearances — Hall missed three games in January with a thumb injury.
That took it into the third as Ward matched saves with Kinkaid. Peters decided to go with the veteran again Friday — the first time this season Peters has used a goalie in both games of a back-to-back – and said Ward likely would start Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets.
After the Teravainen goal, his 18th, the Canes had to kill off a penalty to keep the lead. They did as Ward made some big stops.
“We just got the momentum of the game (and) the next thing you know we give them a real good opportunity,” Peters said. “Wardo came through.”
The Hurricanes got an emotional lift Thursday with the return of Staal and put together one of their most complete games of the season against the Flyers.
Staal had been away from the team and missed three games after the death of his infant daughter, Hannah. Having him back centering Williams and Brock McGinn bolstered the lineup.
Friday’s game was more of a grind as the two teams battled for pucks, clogged up the neutral zone and searched for offensive openings. Ryan, the Canes’ best offensive player in the first period, scored in the second on what appeared to be a pass through the crease to forward Lee Stempniak. The puck hit the left skate of Devils defenseman Damon Severson, skidding past Kinkaid.
It was Ryan’s 12th goal of the season and his first in 16 games, ending a frustrating stretch for the center. Victor Rask, first in on the forecheck on the shift, had the primary assist.
A holding penalty on Ryan late in the second led to Hall’s power-play score. Held without a shot most of the first 40 minutes, Hall redirected a shot by Sami Vatanen from the wall in the slot to beat Ward with 32 seconds remaining in the period.
Kinkaid had twice beaten the Canes before this season and took a 6-1 career record over Carolina into the game.