RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes earned their first win of the season, a 3-0 decision over the Arizona Coyotes in front of 10,870 in attendance at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Goaltender Cam Ward made 25 saves and earned his first shutout and win of the year while forward Elias Lindholm’s first two goals of the season along with Jiri Tlusty’s sixth padded the finish that gave head coach Bill Peters his first NHL victory as well.
The triumph brought along with it symbolic presentation and recognition amongst the players and coaching staff.
Ward gave Peters the game puck as a memento.
Peters was appreciative of the gesture, but recognized his players for their effort in earning the win.
“I’m happy for the guys,” Peters said.
“They worked hard – you’ve seen them how hard they worked…They deserve the praises, they laid it on the line. Winning hurts to a certain degree. There should be ice bags on there. They should be blockin’ shots. They should be payin’ a price and sellin’ out, and most of us did that tonight. That’s what you have to do. When you get that culture established, you’re gonna’ win more often than not.”
In selecting Ward as the player of the game, Peters gave the franchise’s all-time shutout leader, now standing with 22, a red fireman’s helmet adorned with a Hurricanes logo on the front.
“We’ve been waitin’ to crack that out for a while,” Peters said smiling.
“To me those guys are heroes, right?” the coach noted as he explained the significance of the headwear.
“Everyone’s runnin’ from a fire and they’re goin’ the other way – they’re goin’ in. They save lives. They’re people that you need and I have a lot of respect for for ‘em. I have some friends that are firemen and when a guy gets that award, he’s the player of the game. For me, one of the main reasons we won, Lindy’s a guy who could have got it also, but for me Wardo gave us that chance to play with the lead.”
Both teams entered the first of two matchups they’ll have against one another this season desperate to beat one another.
The Hurricanes remained as the only team in the National Hockey League (NHL) still seeking a victory while the Coyotes were trying to end a winless stretch during their current road trip.
LIndholm scored his first at 3:57 of the opening period as a follow-up to defenseman Brett Bellemore putting the puck towards the net after corralling it off the side boards.
Phoenix goalkeeper Mike Smith made the pad save on Bellemore’s shot, but Lindholm fought for his space at the top of the crease and tucked the puck over the keeper’s outstretched glove to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.
Consecutive penalties to Justin Faulk and Jiri Tlusty endangered the Hurricanes’ lead midway through the period, especially facing the NHL’s second-best power-play unit powered by Coyotes defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larson.
However, Ward helped to successfully backstop both penalty kills.
With four minutes left in the period, Coyotes forward Shane Doan threatened to score in close, but Ward fended off the deke attempt after the Arizona captain snuck past Faulk.
Playing a much tighter defensive game and paying attention to gap control and reading opportunities to pinch in offensively, the Hurricanes, for the most part, were in better position to defend their zone than times during their recent road trip.
“There’s reads and chances, opportunities to pinch in a game,” Peters said.
“They gotta’ decide if they’re not gapped up in the beginning and you try to pinch after, you’re basically comin’ to the party a little bit late and you’re in trouble. So, if you work hard, follow the play up the ice, and have the opportunity to pinch on say a long rim, I expect you to pinch. All six guys have the green light to pinch.”
On two separate occasions Faulk took advantage to do so, effectively playing the puck off the boards, and earned two assists, on Lindholm’s second and Tlusty’s marker, by putting the puck on the net as a result.
Lindholm scored his second of the game sitting in the high slot, and in a similar situation to scoring his first, he cleaned up a rebound opportunity that Faulk created and beat Smith again to put Carolina ahead 2-0 with 2:38 remaining in the period.
“It’s nice to get the first and the second came tonight too,” Lindholm said.
“Hopefully I can build some confidence to (continue) and play better…I feel more comfortable everywhere on the ice.”
With Carolina leading by two, Phoenix threatened to get closer.
However, Martin Erat was thwarted by Ward and then dumped to the ice by defenseman Ron Hainsey while attempting to play the rebound with 90 seconds remaining in the period.
With 48 seconds remaining in the first, Faulk skated off the ice on his own after being hit in the chin with a deflected pass off the stick of Coyotes forward Justin Hodgman.
As drops of blood on the ice showing the effects of the puck’s impact were scraped up, the young defenseman eventually returned wearing a full wire cage for the remainder of the game, and assumed his prominent role in setting Tlusty’s goal up.
With Carolina holding onto the two-goal lead through much of the third, Tlusty cleaned up a big rebound on the power play off Faulk’s point shot at 15:21.
Phoenix goaltender Smith ventured all the way into the right corner to attempt to clear the puck off the glass, but Faulk was there to bat it down and tee up a shot towards the net.
Smith made a diving save while returning to his crease, but the rebound he offered up left more than enough space for Tlusty to extend the Carolina lead and finish the game’s scoring at 3-0.
Even with a sizeable margin to its favor, Carolina was never in the clear until the final horn sounded.
There were times when Arizona’s forwards found the seams to sneak in.
It went like that throughout the game as Ward as well as Smith made many saves while helping their teams defend their respective zones.
As forward Alexander Semin and defenseman John-Michael Liles were healthy scratches, both Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer made a return to the lineup after sitting out four and six games respectively.
“I thought Patty and Gerbs both fit in nicely,” captain Eric Staal said.
“We’re definitely a little deeper that way and it gives us a little more balance and structure with our lines. It was a good start and we continued to stay with it. When we did give up something, Wardo was real solid.”
“You play this game not to get scored on,” Ward added.
“To be able to get a shutout is a huge bonus and it definitely feels good, but any goaltender will tell you that you can’t do it without your teammates.”
Ward came up with big glove save and a few more pad stops with seconds left to preserve his shutout.
“It’s nice to get the lead and stay on the gas – we were pretty solid all the way through,” Staal concluded.
“It’s a good win for us. We gotta’ build on it and be ready for tomorrow.”
Notes: Carolina finished 1-for-2 on the power play (6-28, 21.4% on the season) and killed off all three penalty-kill situations they were in (26-32, 81.2% on the season)…Staal earned an assist on Tlusty’s goal and extended his current point-scoring streak to four games…Defenseman Tim Gleason played in his 500th game with the Hurricanes as part of his ninth season with the team…The line of Gerbe-Nash-Lindholm contributed 12 shots on goal while the combination of Skinner-Staal-Tlusty added 10 more – 63 percent of the team’s output on the night.