Sebastian Aho scored the winning goal, again.
Cam Ward was the winning goalie, again.
The Carolina Hurricanes, in their second game since the NHL All-Star break, won again Friday, topping the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 at PNC Arena.
Aho didn’t have the hats flying again. Fresh off his first career hat trick on Tuesday, when the rookie scored three times in a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Finnish forward gave the Canes the lead with a power-play goal at 1:48 of the third period.
The Oilers, so good on the road this season, made a push at the end and pulled goalie Cam Talbot in the final minutes for an extra attacker. But the Canes kept the puck in the Edmonton zone enough while making enough gritty plays in their own zone to get the job done.
At this point in the season, the points are precious. The Canes (23-20-7) will play the first of three straight road games Saturday against the New York Islanders and will go into the game five points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
“We had to regroup over the All-Star break and we’ve gotten off to a real good start,” Ward said after his 24-save performance. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum (Saturday) in a tough conference game. The points are huge. You have to capitalize.”
Jordan Staal gave the Canes a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Oilers center Connor McDavid answered in the second. McDavid, fast emerging as an NHL megastar at 20, leads the NHL in points and assists this season, and his goal Friday was his 18th.
“McDavid is already arguably one of the best players in the league and for a good reason,” Ward said. “He makes everybody else on the ice dangerous on his team. Fortunately we were able to limit him tonight.”
Canes coach Bill Peters often had defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce matched up against the McDavid line, which had Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon on the wings. Peters also used Staal’s line, with Aho and Elias Lindholm, against the McDavid line.
McDavid had two shots although his line did have nine, four by Draisaitl, who has a team-high 20 goals for the Oilers (28-18-8).
“Our forwards did a good job of keeping them in their zone and limiting their opportunities,” said Slavin, who was selected the first star of the game. “When they did come back with speed, our forwards were backchecking and getting back and helping us out defensively.”
Asked if he enjoyed the challenge, Slavin smiled, saying, “Absolutely. I look forward to playing these kind of guys. It’s definitely a fun time out there.”
Staal scored not long after he and Aho botched a two-on-none rush by overpassing. Lindholm knocked the Oilers’ Jordan Eberle off the puck in the Edmonton zone and chipped a pass off the boards to Aho, who made a quick cross-ice pass that Slavin corralled.
Slavin found Lindholm down low and Lindholm, playing his best hockey of the season, found Staal in the low slot for the quick-hitter.
A tripping penalty on Eberle 14 seconds into the third was costly for the Oilers. On their only power play of the game — the Oilers had three — the Canes scored when defenseman Justin Faulk passed to Aho in the right circle and Aho ripped a shot past Talbot for his 16th of the season.
Moments before, Faulk swatted the puck down and kept it in the zone as the Oilers tried to clear.
McDavid’s goal came when he broke his stick in the Carolina zone, then went to the Edmonton bench for a new one. Suddenly, he was open at the blue line for a stretch pass and beat Ward with a backhander.
The Oilers played Thursday, losing 2-0 in a road game against Nashville. They also lost defenseman Matt Benning to an injury in the first period Friday.
For all their home success — the Canes are 17-6-1 at PNC Arena — they are 6-14-6 on the road. With the mandated NHL five-day bye week coming soon, the next three games against the Isles, Washington and Dallas could be a critical stretch for the Canes.
“We need to get two wins, at least, if not all three,” Slavin said.