The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in the two teams’ first matchup of the season that took place at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
The Thanksgiving Eve affair gave the 10,911 in attendance an entertaining display of giveaways, deflected shots, referee collisions, glove and pad saves to go along with five combined goals scored.
“It was pretty good,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“They’re a good team. They were quick. They’re good in transition. They’ve got some guys that can take the puck down the wall with some real speed, so I thought we did a good job in the offensive zone. We were heavy, but we were dynamic, movin’ our feet and doin’ some good things there. I thought that really helped slow them down – made them stop, made them play in the D-zone.”
Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner, and Andrej Nestrasil fueled the Hurricanes offense and goaltender Cam Ward earned the win, turning away 30 pucks throughout.
“It all starts with hard work,” Ward said.
“Certainly there’s been some bounces and some calls against us that probably weren’t very warranted, but you’ve got to put your head down and go to work and win those opportunities and luck chances too.”
Edmonton forward Benoit Pouliot opened the game’s scoring at 7:34 of the opening period – netting his 100th career NHL goal on the power play – and put Edmonton ahead 1-0.
Play continued from end-to-end throughout the opening 20 minutes as both Ward and Edmonton goalie Anders Nilsson (23 saves) were tested often and stayed equally busy.
Both teams’ special teams put work in as well, with penalty-killing units for each winning out as Carolina couldn’t convert on its first man-advantage, while Edmonton missed out on two power play opportunities.
As the period drew to a close, the Hurricanes’ forechecking work paid dividends when Staal banked a dump shot towards Nilsson’s left crease area from behind the goal line.
After deflecting off Oilers defenseman Griffin Reinhart’s skate, the puck continued on to nick Nilsson’s skate and found enough room between the post to cross the goal line.
Nestrasil earned an assist on Staal’s fourth of the season which tied the game 1-1 with 16 seconds remaining before the first intermission.
“Those goals in the last minute are huge in our sport, especially when we’re down one,” Peters said.
“Now you go into the room, feel better about yourself, and I thought we had a really good second period, so it definitely gave us momentum.
Play continued at a high pace throughout the first 10 minutes of the second, with an unfortunate outcome for Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov.
Following a faceoff at center ice, the Russian forward got tangled with a linesman who lost his balance and as the official was falling, pulled him down in an awkward position that seemed to twist the player’s knee.
Yakupov needed help off the ice and didn’t return for the rest of the game.
Just past the midpoint of the period, Lindholm picked the puck up on a breakout after muscling Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off of it and went in on a 2-on-1 with defenseman Brett Pesce on the right wing with Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom splitting them.
Lindholm waited long enough before ripping a wrist shot that cleanly beat Nilsson low for his third goal of the season, and the eventual game-winner.
Assisted by Eric Staal and John Michael-Liles, the goal was Lindholm’s first in five games, having last scored in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Nov. 14.
“The last couple of games I feel good,” Lindholm said.
“I got a lot of chances the last two games, and if I play like that, we’ll score.”
Nilsson continued to face shots and make saves, while at the other end, Ward did the same and also got some help when Brandon Davidson hit the post.
The puck entered the Oilers end soon after and Skinner scored to extend Carolina’s lead to two goals.
He redirected a point pass from defenseman Justin Faulk, the team’s leading point-getter, who extended his current point streak to seven games.
The Hurricanes carried their 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
In the third period, both teams continued to press as Jordan Staal put a shot on Nilsson during the fifth minute that required an exceptional save to keep the game at a two-goal differential.
Taylor Hall’s quick shot off a pass from Teddy Purcell couldn’t beat Ward who made a chest save and smothered the puck with 13 minutes remaining.
Hall, the Oilers’ top scorer, and fourth in league scoring, was held without a point all night.
With Victor Rask in the penalty box for delay of game, Carolina had to fend off the Oilers’ fourth power play of the game.
The Hurricanes successfully killed the penalty off with just over five minutes to play, and continued to test Nilsson as Skinner and captain Eric Staal put pucks towards him.
Even though the Oilers outshot Carolina in the period, trying to cut into their lead, Nestrasil scored his second of the season, an empty-net goal, that completed the win for the Hurricanes.
“Guys were skatin’,” Skinner said.
“D-men were movin’ the puck up quick and we were able to get in their end pretty quickly and smoothly.”
“The Oilers are a dangerous team,” Ward added.
“We showed up ready to go and we got rewarded for it.”