For Eddie Lack, helping the Carolina Hurricanes win a hockey game, ending a five-game winless streak, was the most important thing Friday.
That he shut out the Ottawa Senators 3-0, making 34 saves, was personally gratifying given his injuries and missed games this season.
But the game had extra meaning for Lack, who was more than the Canes’ goaltender on what he called a special night at PNC Arena.
As part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, the Canes were hosting “You Can Play” Night. Local LGBTQ organizations took part and were recognized, and some Hurricanes players used pride tape on their sticks during warmups.
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Lack volunteered to be the team’s You Can Play ambassador, filming a public service announcement that was shown during the game.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve treated people with respect,” Lack said after the game. “Everyone is equal in my book. It’s awesome that they can have a night or a month like this (in the NHL) where the focus is on everyone can play, like everyone is welcome to the sport of hockey.”
Not long after the game, Lack tweeted: “This was a night I’ll never forget. I’d like to dedicate this shutout to love, equality and togetherness.”
Lack, 29, has missed a big chunk of the season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. The game Friday was his second start since Nov. 10 and the victory his second the season.
Lack has spent a lot of time working with Canes goaltending coach David Marcoux while Cam Ward handled most of the workload in net. But the Swede said he felt refreshed and ready after the Canes’ recent five-game bye week.
“I felt I had a little different focus in my game,” Lack said. “Every day coming here with Dave Marcoux, we have been having fun.”
The Canes finally had some fun Friday in ending an 0-4-1 slide. A day after the trade of veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey, they came out with jump and peppered Sens goalie Craig Anderson with 19 first-period shots, tying their high for a period this season, and took the lead on a Jordan Staal goal.
“The players got into it, the fans got into it, and Ottawa could feel it, too,” Lack said. “It’s fun playing when it’s like that. I just tried to keep my composure, keep my calm.”
Sens coach Guy Boucher said he expected a strong first period from the Canes, noting they were 16-4-2 at home since mid-November.
“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be ready for their surge in the first and we were just not good at all,” he said.
Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg scored second-period goals as the Canes pushed the lead to 3-0. Stalberg’s goal came with 42 second left in the period and appeared to be a deflator for the Sens, who were playing without injured forwards Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan.
The Canes had two third-period penalties, but the penalty killers – minus Hainsey, a big part of the Canes’ P.K. success this season – worked their way through the Sens’ power plays to preserve Lack’s shutout bid.
Phil Di Giuseppe, called a “hard-nosed kid” by Canes coach Bill Peters, had a pair of assists for the Canes and center Victor Rask earned an assist to end his 14-game point-less streak. The new defensive pairings were solid as Ryan Murphy moved into the lineup.
The Canes (25-24-8) finish off a five-game homestand Sunday with a 3 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames. Peters said Saturday that Lack, after the ninth shutout of his career, would again be the starter.
That Lack’s other victory this season came against the Flames, in October, factored into the decision. And Lack should get a lot more work in a game-heavy March.
“I’m not trying to look too far ahead,” Lack said. “Let’s just focus on the game Sunday and go from there.”
CALGARY FLAMES AT CAROLINA HURRICANES
When: 3 p.m. Sunday,
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh