They did exactly that and claimed a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Defenseman Justin Faulk posted the eventual game-winning goal to go along with an assist to lead the Hurricanes to the victory, while Joakim Nordstrom matched with a goal and an assist, and defenseman Brett Pesce added a single.
Goaltender Cam Ward earned the win with a 19-save performance while New Jersey starter Cory Schneider made 22 stops in the losing effort.
Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal for New Jersey – his 15th of the season.
“It’s never the easiest game to play,” Faulk said of coming back without a day of practice.
“You just gotta go out, work, and try to find your legs early. We kind of battled through that and found our game.“
Playing much better during the middle part of December, the Hurricanes came into it with a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games.
Carolina looked to improve upon its first meeting of the season against the Devils, one which ended up as a demoralizing 5-1 loss at home on Dec. 3.
Saturday night’s contest was a decidedly different affair and the 11,654 in attendance saw a team that played much more consistently from start to finish.
“We made sure we played everybody and the guys did a good job finding a way to contribute,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
Both teams kept a steady and active pace of play while competing for puck possession at both ends and through the neutral zone.
Ward and Schneider did their jobs to keep both teams scoreless through the opening 20 minutes of play.
Carolina (14-16-5) outshot New Jersey (17-14-5) by a 7-6 margin during that time.
While New Jersey tried to take control of the game during the early minutes of the second period, Carolina countered and got on the board first.
Pesce scored his third goal of the season at 9:57 in the second to put Carolina ahead 1-0.
The rookie’s shot from the point made it through traffic in front as Andrej Nestrasil helped to screen Schneider on the play.
Along with Nordstrom, defenseman John Michael-Liles assisted on the play, his third point in as many games.
The Hurricanes carried the one-goal advantage into the third period after dominating play during the latter half of the second.
Exceptional stops by Schneider prevented Carolina from extending its lead further.
The Devils started the final period with a strong forecheck and it paid off as Palmieri finished the job with the help of linemates Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique.
Palmieri’s wraparound from the right post got past Ward while Henrique crowded the top of the crease and tied the game up 1-1 at the 1:18 mark.
A sprawling pad save by Schneider a minute later prevented Kris Versteeg from putting the Hurricanes in the lead again.
An equally impressive butterfly pad save by Ward prevented Henrique from giving the Devils the advantage with 12 minutes to play.
“I feel during these last three or four games I’ve played pretty well,” Ward said.
“I felt good tonight and I thought the guys brought it tonight too.”
Peters concurred on his goaltender’s play.
“He’s been good here for a little while,” the coach said.
“Big saves on a few 2-on-1’s early in the game and then another big save in the third. He was excellent – he handled he puck well and did a lot of good things. It’s an encouraging sign and now we’ll have a tough decision to make on a back-to-back after four days off.”
Faulk eventually beat Schneider through the five-hole on a low snap shot from the slot on a feed from captain Eric Staal who set the play up following a cross-ice pass from Versteeg.
Faulk’s 13th goal of the season, his first even-strength goal of the season after scoring a record 12 on the power play, put Carolina ahead 2-1 with 11:43 remaining.
“I’ll take them any way I can get them,” Faulk said.
Carolina didn’t stop there as Faulk then set up Nordstrom’s second of the season with 3:14 to play.
Carrying the puck into the New Jersey zone as a result of skating unopposed through the neutral zone off the breakout from his own end, Faulk slid the puck to the winger who skated alongside him to his left.
At the top of the circle by the side boards, Nordstrom then teed up a knuckler of a slap shot that beat Schneider past his blocker.
The goal finalized the Hurricanes’ win at 3-1, an important one which came against a division opponent.
“In the Metropolitan Division, we’ve got to clean up our record,” Peters said.
“A couple of games under .500 within the division – that’s something we’ve got to change in the second half of the season.”
Restarting the season on a positive note, Carolina departed to complete its weekend back-to-back set with a trip to Chicago to face the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Sunday.
“We’ve gotta’ follow it up against a good team in Chicago and try and get on a run here, and accumulate as many points as we can in the next stretch of games,” Staal said.
“We’ve got a lot of hockey, but if we continue to play the way we did tonight, we’re gonna get some wins.”