RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes held off the Philadelphia Flyers long enough to earn a 2-1 win at PNC Arena on Friday.
The Metropolitan Division match-up between the two struggling teams didn’t disappoint the 12,682 in attendance as Carolina outlasted the visiting side on the 20-save effort of goaltender Cam Ward who earned his 10th win of the season.
“We got off to a real good start,” Ward said.
“I thought we really pushed the pace early on. To be able to get that first goal was a sense of relief for everybody in the locker room.”
Forwards Brad Malone and Eric Staal provided the offense for the Hurricanes as successive goals in the first two periods of play provided enough of a buffer to earn the team its first win in four games.
It was a physical contest, with 60 total hits dished out between both sides, and with 97 shot attempts on goal, blocked, or missed coming at both ends of the ice.
Chris VandeVelde posted the Flyers’ lone goal of the game, while goaltender Steve Mason made 24 saves in the losing effort.
Carolina (11-23-4) dominated play early on, outshooting Philadelphia 5-0 before Claude Giroux put a dangerous shot on Ward at the 14-minute mark.
Philadelphia (14-17-7) never stopped battling for possession and continued to try to put shots on net.
Wayne Simmonds had the best early opportunity to open the game’s scoring, but was checked and denied a shot on net.
Another Flyers forward, Sean Couturier, had an even better chance, but Ward stood his ground at the top of his crease and made the save.
Zach Boychuk then stole the puck from the Flyers’ Matt Read deep in the Carolina zone and headmanned the puck to Malone who carried it through the neutral zone and over the opposing blue line.
Using defenseman Ryan Murphy as a decoy on the 2-on-1 with Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossman between them, Malone kept the puck and wired a snap shot high over Mason’s trapper to score his first goal of the season and put Carolina ahead 1-0 at 13:41.
Carolina outshot Philadelphia 12-4 after the first.
“Bugsy shoots high on me in practice, so it’s kind of nice that he did it to the opposing goalie today,” Ward said with a smile.
“He made a great shot.”
For Malone, a recent fight with Montreal’s Brandon Prust earlier in the week preceded his foray into showcasing his offensive talent to help his team earn a win.
“It’s one of those things where you gotta’ keep playin’ the right way, and stick with it. You know, it’s first-shot opportunity and it was nice to put the boys ahead.”
The Hurricanes kept their pressure up from the drop of the puck to start the second period and it was captain Staal who cleaned up a rebound off a point shot that extended the lead to 2-0 just 41 seconds in.
Elias Lindholm, playing on a line with both Staal brothers, Eric and Jordan, gathered the puck along the boards in the neutral zone by the team benches, gained the blue line, and slid a pass to Jordan who managed to get a shot off towards Mason while falling.
The puck hit the cross bar and deflected to the left boards where Lindholm picked it up again.
This time, the young Swede found defenseman Justin Faulk open on the opposite point with time and space to get a shot on net.
As Mason made the pad save, Eric lunged towards the puck and backhanded it in for his 10th goal of the season, putting Carolina ahead 2-0 with almost two full periods still remaining to play.
“I thought we were good,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought the Staal line did a really good job against the Giroux unit. It was a key for us tonight.”
Now trailing by two, the Flyers kept Ward and the Carolina defense busy for the next five minutes, peppering shots on net from all angles.
Philadelphia got an extra boost when Jay McClement’s clearing attempt went over the glass and provided the first power play of the game for either team at the 5:23 mark.
Possessing the sixth-best finishing rate with the man-advantage in the NHL, the Flyers kept their offensive pressure up, but Carolina’s sixth-best penalty kill proved more effective.
Pat Dwyer skated in on Mason, not once, but twice during the two-minute duration, but couldn’t add to the Carolina lead.
While the Flyers finished 0-for-3 on the power play, the Hurricanes didn’t take advantage of the two man-up opportunities they had either.
Philadelphia tried numerous times to screen Ward with shots that went wide, got blocked, or stopped as Carolina held onto the 2-0 margin heading into the final period.
Ward stayed sharp coming out of the break and stopped a Brayden Schenn wrist shot from 15 feet out as Philadelphia tried to put together an early rally.
Both teams continued to finished checks at every instance they could, but that had a downside to it for the Flyers.
Five minutes into the period, Giroux was cut by Faulk’s skate blade, on the back of his right leg above his boot.
The two had bumped along the boards in the Hurricanes corner to Ward’s left.
The Flyers’ second-leading scorer was taken off the ice towards the Hurricanes’ dressing room, as it was apparent that he would have to receive treatment in the home sides’ better-equipped treatment room.
The effort to beat Ward was rewarded as VandeVelde narrowed the Carolina lead to one at the 8:45 mark.
Following a clean breakout out of the Philadelphia zone, Vincent LeCavalier carried the puck into the Carolina zone and dropped a pass to VandeVelde who then wristed the puck inside the post to Ward’s left.
The Hurricanes’ defensive play continued to deny the Flyers any further successful scoring chances.
Even with McClement back in the box for a second time, the Flyers let another extra-man opportunity to score slip through their hands.
Effective penalty kill work by Dwyer, Victor Rask, Riley Nash, and Nathan Gerbe successfully averted any further threat.
“I thought they had a good push in the third – they’re a good team – and they’re gonna’ come,” Peters said.
“I thought that power play built some momentum and then they were able to really get aggressive with their D pinchin’ down the walls, keepin’ plays alive.”
Philadelphia pulled Mason with 1:52 remaining and worked to get its final shots on goal, and during that time, Carolina twice missed scoring on the empty net.
Philadelphia called a final timeout and continued to threaten to tie the game, but couldn’t as the final horn sounded.
Carolina got the result it wanted.
“You need contributions from everyone in your lineup,” Eric Staal said.
“It was big for Bugsy to get that one and get us goin’. I thought we carried a lot of the play there in the first. Nice to have the one and follow it up early in the second; the third, natural tendency is that they’re gonna’ come a little bit more. We didn’t get on the forecheck as much, but Cam was real good – solid. When we did give up something, he was there. It was a good effort.”
Notes: The Staals extended current point streaks as Eric’s stretched to four games (3g, 1a), while Jordan’s included assists in each of the two games he’s played since his making his debut against Montreal on Monday…Coming into the game, Philadelphia had scored 103 goals and allowed 113 against – highest in the Metropolitan Division – compared to Carolina’s 73 goals for and 100 against…Voracek (15g, 32a) and Giroux (13g, 30a) who were ranked No. 1 and 3 on the NHL’s scoring list were Carolina’s biggest threats to defend against. They both finished without a point.