Carolina Hurricanes

Canes honor Ward, then ride Khudobin to win over Caps

The Canes Justin Faulk (27) and the Capitals Alex Ovechkin (8) dive for the puck during the second period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 27, 2015.
The Canes Justin Faulk (27) and the Capitals Alex Ovechkin (8) dive for the puck during the second period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 27, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

Cam Ward took a few early bows, then Anton Khudobin took over.

The Carolina Hurricanes honored Ward for his 500th career game in a ceremony Friday at PNC Arena. Ward, who played the milestone game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, was brought to center ice to receive crystal from the NHL, a silver hockey stick from the Hurricanes and wine from his teammates.

Ward then took a seat to see Khudobin come up with 28 saves in his first shutout of the season as the Canes turned back the Washington Capitals 3-0.

“He was awesome,” Ward said. “That’s a very dangerous team, and they have one of top scorers in the game in (Alexander) Ovechkin. You’ve got to be on your toes, and he made a lot of big-time saves.”

Defenseman Brett Bellemore, who was ill Thursday night and missed Friday’s morning skate, had a first-period goal for the Canes (23-30-7). Jeff Skinner, continuing his recent binge, scored his sixth goal in eight games in the second period, and Nathan Gerbe had an empty netter in the final seconds.

Bellemore also dropped the gloves and battled the Caps’ Tom Wilson in the second period.

“I thought we played good,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “Five on five, we had a lot of jump.”

And they never trailed. Bellemore’s goal, at 17 minutes, 21 seconds of the first, gave the Canes the lead, and Skinner ripped a shot from the slot past Caps goalie Braden Holtby midway through the second.

“In this league when you get the lead and you can extend it, you’re in good shape,” Peters said. “And when we broke down and needed ‘Dobby’ he was there.”

Khudobin earned his fourth career shutout and his first since March 27, 2014, against the Florida Panthers. It also was his first victory since Jan. 27.

The Caps (33-20-10), dropping their third straight, bounced a few shots off the metal. But Khudobin made some timely stops, denying Nicklas Backstrom in the first, Mike Green off the rush in the second and Matt Niskanen with a sweep-check in the third.

“The guys played really well in front of me,” Khudobin said. “They blocked a lot of shots, they sealed off a lot of players. And I was seeing the puck better than before.”

Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 39 goals, was limited to two shots on goal. While always a threat on the ice, he wasn’t a factor in the game.

Carolina was playing its first game since the trades of defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings and forward Jiri Tlusty to the Winnipeg Jets. Both deals were made Wednesday, and there could be more by the Canes before the NHL trade deadline Monday.

Ron Hainsey replaced Sekera as Justin Faulk’s partner on the Canes’ top defensive pairing. The Canes also got strong, active two-way play from all four lines.

“I thought everybody stepped up,” Bellemore said. “Obviously those were two big pieces we traded away, but we’ve got some young guys who are talented and will pick up those minutes.”

Bellemore had not scored this season and had two career goals coming in. But he winged a shot from the right point that Holtby didn’t track with Canes forward Andrej Nestrasil screening him.

“That was big,” Skinner said. “We got off to a pretty good start, had some good offensive-zone pressure and some good looks.”

Skinner got a good look in the second, taking a pass from Elias Lindholm to score his 16th of the season. Playing on a line with Lindholm and center Riley Nash, he had five of the Canes’ 38 shots. Gerbe had a game-high eight.

Skinner was denied another goal when Holtby raced out of the net in the third to beat him to the puck in the right circle, knocking it away.

“I tried to chip it by him there, and he came out pretty fast,” Skinner said. “It was pretty close.”

Khudobin said he was happy for Ward, who was surrounded by his family for the pregame ceremony, saying, “That pumped me up a little bit.”

By game’s end, Khudobin was the one named the game’s first star, the one wearing the fireman’s helmet as team MVP.

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