It was just the kind of game the Carolina Hurricanes have been unable to win of late.
The Canes had the lead, then saw it slipping away. A lot of the third period was played in their end, the Canes whacking at pucks, relying on their goalie, trying to hold on.
But the Hurricanes held on Sunday. They topped the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 at PNC Arena, playing with grit, protecting the lead in the final minutes to end a five-game winless streak.
Justin Faulk had a pair of power-play goals for the Canes (7-10-3), and rookie defenseman Brett Pesce scored his first NHL goal and added an assist for his first multi-point game. Jeff Skinner scored his fourth of the season and goalie Cam Ward made just enough stops in a game that was both bruising and entertaining.
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“It was nice to get the victory the way we did, with some resiliency,” Canes forward Kris Versteeg said.
It’s never easy against the Kings (12-8-0), who were leading the NHL’s Pacific Division. The Kings were tough along the boards and tried to muscle up in front of Ward, who had 26 saves.
Canes forward Nathan Gerbe was injured in the first period after a big hit by Kyle Clifford causing Canes forward Brad Malone to drop the gloves and fight Clifford. Carolina coach Bill Peters had no update on Gerbe’s condition after the game.
“They’re a heavy team and play a hard game,” said Versteeg, who had two assists. “More than any other team in the league, you’ve got to keep your head up all 60 minutes.”
Pesce scored in the first period with a blast from the point, and the Canes pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second as Skinner converted a tight-angled shot and Faulk unloaded from the point on a 5-on-3 power play.
Faulk has eight goals this season, all on the power play, to lead NHL defenseman in scoring.
Carolina’s Eric Staal then had a chance to make it 4-0 on a breakaway, but Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick got the shaft of his stick on the shot and the momentum turned.
With about seven minutes left in the second, Canes defenseman Noah Hanifin was called for covering the puck in the crease. Ward and Hanifin both tried to smother the puck near the post after Ward stopped the Kings’ Dustin Brown on a rebound.
Brown was awarded a penalty shot and scored as Hanifin, watching from the bench, smashed his stick in anger. Hanifin later said Ward covered the puck with his glove and that he had his hand on top of Ward’s glove.
The Kings’ Anze Kopitar scored the first of his two goals 58 seconds later, and the Canes’ lead was 3-2.
But the Canes responded with Faulk’s second power-play score with 2:14 left in the second. Quick stopped Faulk’s point shot, but the puck glanced off the skate of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, who had whiffed on it trying to clear.
“You’ve got to rely on special teams to win games sometimes and Justin Faulk has one of the best shots in the league,” Pesce said.
The Kings replaced Quick in net with Jhonas Enroth in the third and Kopitar’s second goal, on a power play with 10:45 in regulation, made it 4-3. The Kings pulled Enroth in the final minute and Carolina’s Jordan Staal was penalized with 18 seconds left but the Kings couldn’t tie it.
The Canes had coughed up leads in recent games and lost. This time, they won.
“We need to be hungry for points and we found a way to get some points today and scored some goals,” Peters said. “I believe in our group and like the way we’re going.”