RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 at PNC Arena on Monday.
Zach Boychuk , Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner and Tim Gleason scored for Carolina while starting goaltender Cam Ward extended his win total to five games on a 22-save performance.
The Hurricanes entered their final meeting of the season with Calgary riding a five-game unbeaten streak while coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to Washington on Saturday.
The win over the Flames exacted revenge for a 5-0 drubbing in Calgary back on Oct. 23 that was suffered in the midst of Carolina’s abysmal eight-game winless stretch to begin the season.
“It was a good team win,” Skinner said.
After falling behind 1-0 at the 13:07 mark of the first period following a Flames man-advantage goal from David Jones, Boychuk provided the equalizer that Carolina needed before the period ended.
“That’s nice, especially down one,” Skinner said.
“Huge effort by him to get us on the board – I think we got our legs under us then.”
After receiving a long lead pass in the neutral zone from Faulk who initiated it from behind the Carolina goal line, Boychuk only had Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman to beat.
As he maintained possession of the puck while skating along the boards, Boychuk was able to get a step on Wideman and released a knuckler of a shot towards the Calgary net.
Thinking he had the post fully covered, Hiller didn’t realize he left enough space for his head to be used to redirect Boychuk’s shot into the net, and as a result, the score was tied 1-1.
“It was kind of a lucky break,” Boychuk said.
“I caught a puck along the boards there and felt like I had a bit of step on Wideman and kept going down the boards and just fired it on net. It went off his helmet and luckily it went it.”
“That was a huge boost,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“He won a battle down the wall, stayed with it, and threw it in. It’s a good play – a strong play.”
Boychuk’s play made up for a poor opening period of play according to the coach.
“I didn’t like our start,” Peters continued.
“We got outshot quite badly in the first and we needed somethin’.”
Taking advantage of their first power play opportunity of three total in the game, the Hurricanes took only four seconds from the puck drop and a faceoff win by Riley Nash for Faulk to put a point shot towards Hiller that snuck between his glove hand and body enough to give Carolina a 2-1 lead at 4:50 in the second period.
The Hurricanes extended their lead at 12:15 when Skinner scored his third goal of the season and 100th of his NHL career, becoming the fourth youngest player in franchise history to do so.
As Alexander Semin turned out of the right corner with the puck, he spotted Skinner streaking towards the slot, and feathered a precise backhand pass to the young sniper on the fly.
All in one motion, Skinner snapped an-off hand shot that hit nothing but net in the top corner by Hiller’s right ear and extended the Hurricanes’ lead to 3-1 with 7:45 remaining in the second period.
“He’s been good here for the last two or three games and he got rewarded here tonight,” Peters said.
“I’m happy for him. He’s gotta’ continue to stay with it and work hard.”
Coming out for the third period, both teams played at a higher pace, from end to end, but in a choppy and suffocating style that was opportunistic for the team that capitalized on the chances afforded as a result.
Both Ward and Hiller stayed sharp, but it was Hiller along with defenseman Wideman who were both victimized at the expense of the Hurricanes a second time as Gleason put Carolina further ahead 4-1 at the 9:10 mark of the final period.
Pinching in on the blue line to keep the puck in play along the boards in the Calgary zone, Gleason broke towards the net looking for a return pass from Skinner.
Skinner slid the puck towards the slot, but it was ahead of Gleason’s stick and instead headed directly towards Wideman’s skate blade.
Not realizing quickly enough that the Hurricanes defenseman was in front of the net, both Wideman and Hiller were caught off guard when Gleason snapped the puck past them before they could react on the play.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, and on that play, Glease made a good read on the pinch and stayed in,” Peters said.
“Glease would be known as a defensive defenseman around the National (Hockey) League, but when it’s time to pinch, we expect you to pinch. We pinch to play offense. We wanna’ keep it alive and stay in the O-zone.”
Even while the trend is upward for Carolina at the moment, earning points in six consecutive games (5-0-1), there is much room for improvement according to the Hurricanes bench boss.
“We’ve got so far to go,” he said.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just gonna’ keep goin’ at it and try and get better each and every day, and push our players properly and expect good things.”
Notes: Both Skinner and Nathan Gerbe accounted for 42 percent of Carolina’s 31 shots on goal with seven and six apiece…With 12:29 TOI, Boychuk improved his overall rating to a team high plus-5 while also adding a team-high five hits against the Flames…Carolina won 55 percent of its faceoffs led by Jay McClement (9-2), Victor Rask (10-6), and Nash (10-8).