RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters made 28 saves and earned his first win of the season while Manny Malholtra scored the game-winning goal to complete a hard-fought 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
During a game that was scoreless until the last four minutes of play in the third period, the 15,519 spectators in attendance were kept on the edge of their seats throughout as Peters and Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, who made 36 saves on the night, frustrated each team’s shooters at both ends of the ice.
“I felt comfortable,” Peters said.
“The way we played in here as a unit is our identity that we want to have every night. We had it right from the drop of the puck.”
After skating through two scoreless periods, the energy in the stands was amplified after Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe took exception to pushes in the crease area from Flyers defenseman Mark Streit.
Working with a six-inch size disadvantage, it was Gerbe who dropped the gloves and smothered the opposing blueliner in Mason’s crease during a play that eventually resulted in both of them serving time in the penalty box for roughing, and with Gerbe earning an additional two minutes as the primary combatant.
Though the melee ignited the crowd, the man-down situation turned out to be a costly one for the Hurricanes as Philadelphia assistant captain Scott Hartnell tipped in a Kimmo Timonen point shot that found its way between Peters’ pads to put the Flyers ahead 1-0 with 3:58 to play in regulation.
Valiantly working to tie the score, Carolina eventually got a faceoff deep in the Flyers zone and pulled Peters to add the extra skater with 90 seconds left to play.
Maintaining puck possession in the offensive zone and moving it from corner to corner and up to the points and back down again, the puck eventually ended up on Jiri Tlusty’s stick to set up the game-tying goal.
Holding the puck to Mason’s right, Tlusty slid it to a waiting Eric Staal behind the net, who then one-timed a pass into the low slot where brother Jordan was waiting to connect on a one-timer that beat the Flyers keeper high and tied the score with 53 seconds remaining.
For Staal, tallying his second goal of the season at such a critical point in the game came as a welcome relief, particularly since Mason had stonewalled him on a great scoring chance earlier in the game at the midpoint of the first period.
“It was just a reaction play, I was trying to get it off as quick as I can, just like that first one where he made a great save” Jordan said afterwards.
“I was just trying to get it off. I think he got a piece of it too, but this time it didn’t go out, it went in. It was just nice to finally get one again behind a goalie and hopefully for myself I can keep that goin’ and our team as well.”
As both teams had earned a point for their efforts in securing a tie at the end of the third period, it was recently signed forward Manny Malholtra who turned out to be the hero for Carolina in overtime.
Midway through the extra period, the veteran centerman collided with Streit at the Hurricanes blue line, and after doing so, broke for open ice while defenseman Ron Hainsey gained possession of the puck and saucered a pass to him at the center line.
Streaking in on a breakaway towards the net with the Flyers defenseman in pursuit, Malholtra felt the pressure and moved the puck to his backhand before lifting it to beat Mason and score the game-winning goal at the 2:40 mark.
“I just wanted to make sure I got a shot,” Malholtra said.
“I felt the pressure come from the left side so I made sure I got a quick shot off from the backhand and surprised him.”
Earning the win over their Metropolitan division rival snapped the Hurricanes’ recent five-game losing streak while also earning them a valuable two points in the standings.
For head coach Kirk Muller, the effort put forth by the Hurricanes was one based on staying persistent in playing out their intended game plan.
“We came into tonight’s game, we just simplified, we stayed the program,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.
“We did it for three periods. Ironically we score at the end and win it in overtime. That was the key – everyone contributed to the win and stayed with the program.”