Peter Koutroumpis, Managing Editor
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes were not intimidated or overpowered when they beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in front of a rambunctious crowd of 10,809 at PNC Arena on Sunday.
In winning their fourth game in a row, the Hurricanes contended with a rabid Jets team that was licking its wounds from a 4-1 loss in Boston the night before and wanting to exact revenge accordingly.
They couldn’t as Carolina used effective puck possession and poise to stand its ground and take advantage of the opportunities they were presented with.
Elias Lindholm scored his first goal of the season, Victor Rask posted his eighth, and Noah Hanifin notched his first to lead Carolina while goaltender Cam Ward made 28 saves to earn his sixth win of the season.
The win also split the two teams’ season series at 1-1 after the Hurricanes fell 5-4 in overtime to the Jets in their season-opener back on Oct. 13
“Both teams have a lot of skill and pace,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought it was a very well-played game both ways. I really liked the quality of the chances we generated, and then the fact that we scored the game winner and the insurance marker on the power play is very encouraging moving forward.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 37 stops and kept Winnipeg close throughout the contest, making many exceptional glove saves to keep the puck out of the net.
Mark Scheifele tallied his 11th goal of the season, the lone marker for the Jets who lost their third game in a row.
While the number of goals scored was low, the amount of body checks thrown, 83 in total, and 129 shot attempts that both teams unleashed at both ends kept everyone’s attention for the full 60 minutes.
It was arguably the most exciting hockey game played at PNC this season.
“I think it (the physicality) brought out the intensity and I think it brought out the atmosphere in the crowd too,” he said.
“The place was buzzing watching that. It was great to see the guys not back down.”
While it had the offensive output of a soccer match, it was livened up with the intentional and reactionary brutality of a MMA match, but with less blood and no one knocked out by the end of it.
There were ample power play opportunities – 10 of them in total – of which Carolina drew more as a result of Winnipeg’s overzealous action to hit first and ask questions later.
Carolina finished 2-of-7 with the man-advantage as the Jets’ tactic to physically overpower the Hurricanes didn’t equate into a winning strategy.
“I felt like their focus might have shifted into more of a running-around style,” Ward pointed out.
“The objective of the game is to win, so our focus remained the same. But it got pretty aggressive at times.”
Lindholm scored at 6:45 of the first period when he took a pass from defenseman Ron Hainsey and dangled the puck unopposed from the corner to Hellebuyck’s right into the low slot.
Using Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien as a screen, he let a wrist shot go that beat the Jets netminder to the blocker side, just inside the post, and put the Hurricanes ahead 1-0.
He looked upward, thankful that his first goal of the season had finally been recorded.
“Yeah, you could see his eyes go to the sky there,” teammate Jordan Staal said.
“I’ve been there. It’s not a fun feeling. It’s always nice to get that first one – get that goose egg out of the way.”
“When you get the first one out of the way, it’s always nice,” a relieved Lindholm said.
“Hopefully, now for me, I can build some more confidence. The last few games I’ve been turning down a few opportunities to shoot. I haven’t believed in myself really and in my shot. Hopefully now I can get some more (chances) and shoot more.”
After a scoreless second period, Carolina extended its lead to two goals as Rask went top-shelf over Hellebuyck with a power play marker 2:39 into the third period.
Lee Stempniak and Jeff Skinner earned assists on the play.
Both teams continued to spar in and around the puck in all zones, with the Jets never relenting in trying to throw Carolina off its pace.
For a moment, it paid off as a chip up the boards from Josh Morrissey put the puck in the neutral zone for Nikolaj Ehlers to pick up and carry into the Hurricanes zone before feeding Scheifele in the slot.
The Jets center outskated Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce and beat Ward high with a one-timer that cut the score to 2-1 with 10:27 to play.
It was the only blemish on the night for Ward who’s play has been pivotal in extending the team’s current win streak further.
“He’s always been a great goalie,” Staal said.
“He’s gone through some ups and downs like a lot of us, but has come through for us as of late and we’ll continue to play well in front of him.”
Taking yet another penalty, the Jets afforded the Hurricanes one final man-advantage which Hanifin converted on and finalized the score at 3-1.
Justin Faulk and Tuevo Teravinen set him up and allowed him to wire a point shot high past Hellebuyck.
Talking about it, the second-year pro said he enjoyed being part of such an exciting game and being able to contribute offensively.
“It was a fun game tonight,” Hanifin said with a smile.
“Ron Hainsey was sayin’ it was ‘old-school hockey’. It was pretty physical out there. I think they were losin’ their cool more than us. We were movin’ the puck really well, playin’ our game. Their answer to that was to play physical and I think we matched it. We didn’t back down, kept playin’ our game. Me individually, you’re just playin’ your game. If guys are hittin’ ya’, you just gotta play through it – that’s hockey.”
With the positive vibes and emotion emanating from young and veteran players alike, Peters has been pleased with what he’s seen with his team recently as it prepares for a more grueling stretch of its schedule that continues on the road starting in Toronto on Tuesday.
“This game that we’re playin’ right now can go on the road and win and be successful,” Peters said.
“It’s a good team game, four lines deep. That was the best we’ve played with all four lines havin’ positive contributions.”
“I think this group is confident,” he added.
“What I like is our group is real energetic right now; I think they’re havin’ fun and they’re excited about bein’ at the rink.”