Sports

Canes end 2018 with New Year’s Eve win over Flyers

There were 26 NHL teams playing games on New Year’s Eve, all with the same goal: celebrate with a victory.

The Carolina Hurricanes were able to to that Monday, turning back the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 at PNC Arena.

With captain Justin Williams playing his 1,200th career game, the Hurricanes (16-17-5) took the lead and never gave it up. Goalie Curtis McElhinney, a tough-luck loser Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, continued his calm, steady play and got enough “run support” from a team effectively using its speed and attacking.

“The game didn’t feel much different from the games we have been playing all year,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We have had good goaltending all year and that was the same tonight. We just got a couple of goals.”

Lucas Wallmark had a first-period goal to make a lively home crowd even more festive. That gave the Canes a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes and it took six seconds in the second period to make it 2-0.

Coming away with the puck after the opening faceoff, Jordan Martinook raced down ice and snapped a shot past goalie Carter Hart -- the fastest goal to start a period in franchise history.

Andrei Svechnikov then picked up the 11th goal of his rookie season, with a wrister from between the circles for a 3-0 lead. It came after center Clark Bishop batted down the puck at center ice, feeding Svechnikov for the top-corner shot.

Moments before Svechnikov’s goal, McElhinney made a sharp save on a shot by Scott Laughton off a two-on-rush. The cheers for that stop hadn’t died down when Svechnikov scored on the other end. Just that quick.

That ended the night for Hart, a 20-year-old rookie taking his turn in net for the Flyers, who have had a baffling string of goaltending injuries. Michal Neuvirth took over, had 12 second-period saves and steadied things for the Flyers,

The Canes (16-17-5), beaten 2-0 by New Jersey, were a lot more aggressive Monday. Late in the second period, forward Brock McGinn slammed defenseman Andrew MacDonald in the corner, then did it again a few seconds later.

The Flyers (15-18-5) made a push early in the third as Jakub Voracek scored off the rush. Canes defenseman Dougie Hamilton lost his stick and there was no backcheck help from the forwards, leaving McElhinney exposed.

The Canes’ play was loose at times in the third, with a few too many errant passes and a lot of time spent in their zone.

Wallmark has done a lot of things well for the Canes in his first full NHL season but the Swedish center has misfired a number of times around the net, scoring twice in the first 37 games. He didn’t miss on a shot from the high slot that beat Hart high to the glove side, after a nice pass from defenseman Brett Pesce.

“He has shown faith and earned his right to be here,” Brind’Amour said. “He has had tough luck. A lot of our guys have played well and we just haven’t been rewarded for our efforts.”

It was a milestone night for Williams, who became the fifth active player -- the 110th all time -- to reach 1,200 games in his career. It was his 385th for the Canes.

In another NHL scheduling quirk, the Canes’ next game will be against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday.

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.
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