Presumably all the Carolina Hurricanes want for Christmas is Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Team executives will not know whether the opportunity to select one of the two presumptive franchise cornerstone centers will be theirs until June 26, the date of the 2015 Entry Draft. In the interim, the Hurricanes are engaged in a season-long quest for offensive production.
Their search turned up two goals in a 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
“It’s a good one for us. It’s nice to get the win,” Jeff Skinner said. “Goals have been hard to come by.”
Chris Terry scored the only goal, while goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique in the shootout to snap the Hurricanes two game losing streak.
“That’s [Terry’s] fifth time [in the shootout],” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said after Carolina moved to 2-7-1 in its last 10. “We use him. [He’s] 4-for-5 I believe.”
Following the optional morning skate, Peters lamented the lack of goals overall, specifically the lack goal support for Khudobin, and that his goaltender had not recorded a win in the 2014-15 season.
The Hurricanes entered the game 29th in the NHL with an average of 2.06 goals per game. Their 68 goals was tied with Florida for second fewest in the league. Carolina had been outscored 32-15 in Khudobin’s 10 prior starts. Khudobin came into his 11th start of the season with an 0-8-2 record, 2.91 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
For much of the night, it appeared as if both trends would continue. Despite outshooting (33-19) and out-attempting (53-41) New Jersey, the Devils had a 1-0 lead going into the third period due to Stephen Gionta’s goal 13 minutes, 32 seconds into the game, and Cory Schneider’s goaltending.
Schneider finished with 32 saves in his NHL-leading 32nd start of the season. And he was strong facing a barrage of shots, the second period in particular.
Carolina outshot the Devils 15-3 in the period but couldn’t break through as Schneider was square to shooters. He robbed John-Michael Liles 3:39 into the second with Brad Malone bearing down in front, and stoned Brendan Woods from the slot with 3:47 left in the period. The Devils goaltender had a bit of luck as Nathan Gerbe’s drive midway through the period ricocheted off his mask.
“We really, really carried the play. If you’re doing that, you’re doing well,” Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “In the second period we had five Grade-A, 10-bell chances.”
Naturally, Schneider’s shutout bid was snapped with 8:01 left in regulation when Hainsey tipped Patrick Dwyer’s shot past the New Jersey goaltender as he was knocked to the ice. The goal was Hainsey’s first of the season, and his first in 67 games.
“I didn’t really know,” Hainsey said of his goal, noting that Dwyer thought the puck went in off his stick. Hainsey later had a chance to win the game in overtime, as had a breakaway coming out of the penalty box. However, Schneider stopped Hainsey’s initial shot and the rebound.
While not as busy as his counterpart, Khudobin was strong when called upon, as he made 18 saves. His goalmouth pad save on Adam Henrique with 1.4 seconds remaining in overtime sent the game to the shootout.
“[It] wasn’t like [the] hockey gods didn’t want to give me a win, give us a win,” Khudobin said. “We had a couple great chances in [overtime]. I’m happy.”
During his pregame media availability, Peters said Woods would made his NHL debut, skating on a line with McClement and Zach Boychuk. Following the game, the Hurricanes announced Woods had been sent down to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
Peters also expressed hope Jordan Staal could return to the lineup for the Hurricanes’ game against Montreal on Monday.