Derek Ryan waited longer than most NHL players for his chance. Now, nearing 30 years old, he’s making the most of it.
Ryan scored twice, Cam Ward made 21 saves and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 on Thursday night.
Ryan had his first multigoal performance in 20 NHL games. A fixture in the lineup since being called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL on Nov. 11, Ryan has six points in the last seven games.
“Pretty remarkable. Hard to even put it into words,” Ryan said. “It’s one of those nights where you’ll remember it.”
Once considered too small and a step too slow for the NHL, the journeyman from Spokane, Wash., who will turn 30 on Dec. 29, has proved he can play at this level after years of playing in the minor leagues and in Europe.
“I don’t think it’s just tonight that’s proven that,” Ryan said. “I think I’ve tried to prove that through the early part of this season and even last year, in the games that I played here. But it’s nice to get those goals and feel like I can contribute at a high level in this league.”
Brock McGinn also scored for Carolina.
Drew Doughty scored for the Kings and Jeff Zatkoff made 15 saves in his first 60-minute performance of the season.
Andrej Nestrasil fed Ryan for the first score of the game with 2:09 left in the first. With Kings defensemen Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin on the same man, Nestrasil found Ryan all alone, and he broke away for the backhand around Zatkoff.
Ryan made it 2-0 at 13:13 in the second period, finishing off an impressive passing sequence with for a short-handed goal. After breaking into a 2-on-1, Ryan sent a no-look backhand pass around defenseman Drew Doughty to McGinn, and McGinn sent the puck under a diving Doughty back to Ryan, who banked it off the near post.
“We’ve done that a couple times together in Charlotte,” Ryan said. “I felt some pressure from Doughty there and I tried to get it over to him behind my back. I was kind of expecting him to shoot it, but he ended up putting it right on my tape for a wide open net.
“Probably one of those goals that my family will watch for a while.”
It appears as though his family get to watch him in the NHL for a little longer, as he’s impressed the Carolina coaching staff with his work ethic and playmaking abilities.
“It’s a good story,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “He’s got a great hockey mind, he’s got elite vision and he makes plays.”
McGinn sniped one top-shelf over Zatkoff 4:20 into the third period to make it 3-0.
Doughty’s goal closed the scoring at 12:50 in the third period.
Hurricanes center Elias Lindholm missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. Defensemen Klas Dahlbeck and Ryan Murphy were healthy scratches.
The Canes finish a three-game California trip in San Jose on Saturday night.