RALEIGH, N.C. – When the hockey gods are watching over you, good things will happen.
Cam Ward’s impressive and at times spectacular saves in addition to scoring off of gift opportunities allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to prevail with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
The tandem of Jordan and Eric Staal netted the winning and insurance goals respectively while Joakim Nordstrom scored the critical first goal to get it all started.
The effort from the Hurricanes was strong, but more to counter what the Flyers presented them while being outshot by a 37-18 margin.
“We found a way tonight,” head coach Bill Peters said.
“Goaltender gave us a chance; I thought the penalty kill was very good. We just gutted it out and found a way to get two points.”
Indeed they did, particularly after falling behind 1-0 during the first period.
Ward’s only shortfall was a slap shot from the Flyers’ Scott Laughton that got past him at the 17:45 mark.
“Best game when we’ve needed him,” Peters continued regarding Ward’s play.
“He stole this game for us – big saves, 2-on-1’s, breakaways and all kinds of stuff goin’ on. It allowed us to stay in the game and get our footing a little bit. Not that we ever got it goin’ 100 percent, but enough to find a way [to win].”
Ward’s denial of six Jakub Voracek shots, among others, was critical to helping the Hurricanes to even the score and eventually take the lead during the second period.
He stopped Laughton’s attempt at a second goal with an impressive glove save early in the period and kept Carolina within one.
“Philadelphia came ready to go,” Ward said.
“They played really tightly and for whatever reason, we weren’t our best. But, the beauty of my position is that when you’re not playing your best you have the opportunity to step up and try to get the boys back in the game. Fortunately I was able to make some saves in the second period and we cashed in on our opportunities when we got them.”
Indeed they did as Nordstrom’s goal then came at the 8:09 mark when he tucked away an attempted clearing pass from Flyers netminder Michal Neuvirth who suffered the loss while making 15 saves.
Voracek challenged Ward twice around the midpoint with attempts to retake the lead, and the keeper also thwarted Matt Read by making a sprawling shoulder save near the end of 40 minutes.
Neuvirth continued to struggle in reacting quickly enough as the puck took more unexpected paths to eventually get past him.
Jordan scored Carolina’s go-ahead goal with 1:34 remaining in the period, his 16th of the season which surpassed his previous single-season total with the Hurricanes of 15 tallied back during the 2013-2014 season.
Staal took advantage of the opportunity in front when Neuvirth was caught out of position as the puck unexpectedly bounced off the referee in the corner and slid towards him in the slot.
“We weren’t skatin’ as well as we usually do,” he said.
“We were fortunate to get a couple of squeakers in and found a way to get two points.”
Eric finalized the game’s scoring by taking advantage of another fortuitous bounce.
After making a blocker save on Jay McClement’s shot, the puck bounced up and over Neuvirth before the Hurricanes captain batted it midair into the net with 5:49 to go.
“It was nice to contribute,” Staal said in scoring his first goal since Jan. 12.
Although dominating possession in an attempt to pull closer as the clock counted down, Philadelphia still couldn’t beat Ward as he finished the job he started.
Carolina got on the right side of a win when puck luck and opportunity presented itself and beat the Flyers for the first time this year.
Philadelphia had won each of the two teams’ previous three meetings in overtime.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year where we’ve played real well and have been on the wrong side of it,” Eric concluded.
“It’s nice to find a way to gut out some points.”