RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes’ recent success in front of their fans continued when the Chicago Blackhawks visited PNC Arena on Friday.
Elias Lindholm, Lee Stempniak, and Jay McClement scored singles while Cam Ward made 27 saves in a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks that extended Carolina’s home point streak to 11 games.
“I liked our start, and they had a pushback as good teams do,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
Michal Kempny and Vinnie Hinostroza answered for the Blackhawks as goaltender Scott Darling faced 28 shots throughout in the losing effort.
While Carolina came out quickly and dominated play to try to strike first in the opening period, Chicago managed to do it instead.
Kempny scored at the 6:36 mark and gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, his first goal of the season that came off a set-up pass from Jonathan Toews with Ryan Hartman getting the initial helper.
Lindholm tied it up soon after at 8:32, tucking away a Jordan Staal attempt in close on Darling.
Defenseman Jaacob Slavin earned an assist on the play, his 12th of the season.
Outshooting the Blackhawks 10-5 up to that point, Stempniak then gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead 65 seconds later.
The right winger buried a pad-save rebound Darling made on a shot from the opposite boards that Tuevo Teravainen initiated and Sebastian Aho subsequently tipped towards the net.
“Lately we’re doing the right things,” Teravainen said.
“We’re trying to forecheck hard and work hard, and that’s why we’re getting a lot of chances I think.”
“It was a fast game,” he added.
“Both teams played really well. A lot of skill on the ice, so you know the pace is going to be there.”
Ward and Darling made numerous impressive stops throughout the remainder of the period as Carolina maintained its one-goal advantage following 20 minutes of play.
Both teams skated to a scoreless second period with Chicago outchancing Carolina by a 10-7 margin.
McClement gave the Hurricanes a little breathing room when his unassisted turnaround slap shot on a broken play in the Chicago end caught Darling off guard and extended the home side’s lead to 3-1 at the 2:54 mark of the third.
Scoring his second of the goal of the season and the eventual game winner, McClement continued to focus on finding a way to contribute.
“I was just kind of in front on the back check, and it was just kind of sittin’ there,” McClement said.
“You don’t get those pucks in there too often. On our line, whenever we get a chance, it’s whatever we can do – whether it’s a good grind shift or chip it in when we can. We’ve been doin’ that a little more lately and that’s been a little more of our success in finding contributions.”
With four shots on net and struggling to beat Ward all game, Hinostroza eventually pulled the Blackhawks back within one when Toews’ shot in close ricocheted off him and beat the keeper just under three minutes later.
With abundant numbers of fans cheering back and forth as part of a mass of 18,016 in attendance, both teams continued to work the puck deep into each’s end zone, with Darling tried to keep his team close while Ward worked to deny a game-tying attempt to get by him.
By the final horn, it was the Hurricanes netminder and his defenders who managed to fend off a furious 6-on-5 Chicago rally during the final two minutes of play to earn the win.
“There’s never an easy game,” Ward said.
“In this league, there’s always going to be a tight battle. Teams are too good these days. We have to learn to be comfortable in those one-goal games. I think we’ve certainly learned from our past experiences early in the season. Tonight was a good showing of being composed and coming up with some big blocks too at the end.”
Playing on the front end-of-a back-to-back set that takes them to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Eve, Carolina now seeks to end 2016 on a winning note.
The Hurricanes carry a 3-2-2 front-side record in consecutive game pairings, and look to add positively to a 5-1-0 ledger on the back end Saturday.
“You play so many of them, you just get used to it,” Peters said.
“I think we’re going to get going quicker here as it goes along. We’re going to get going a little better. There’s another level we can get to.”
“We’re feeling pretty confident for sure,” Teravainen added.
“If we can beat teams like that, then we’re a good team too. I think we’re going in the right direction, and we still have got some things to get better.”
Notes: Lindholm did not return for the third period and was listed with an upper-body injury. His goal was his second in as many games and part of a three-game point streak that included two assists…Stempniak’s eighth goal of the season was his second in as many games as well…Aho’s assist on Stempniak’s goal was his second in two games while Terravainen’s helper on the play extended his current point streak to three games with a goal and two assists.