RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes took a six-game losing streak into the NHL trade deadline, surely contributing to general manager Ron Francis’ decision to stand pat and not add any firepower to the lineup.
So the same group that carried the Hurricanes into the playoff race — and seemingly out of it with the string of losses — had it on their shoulders to try and find a way to get back in the hunt.
First was Thursday’s convincing win over the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers. Then Friday, the Hurricanes grinded their way to a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in front of 14,337 at PNC Arena.
“It’s crunch time, obviously, and what we have, what, 17 games left now,” said goalie Cam Ward, who made 25 saves and earned wins on back-to-back nights. “We’re in this together. We’re in the fight and want to compete and get a string of wins together. Obviously, we’ve got to go on a run here to get ourselves in the wild card.”
With 10:23 left in the game, Elias Lindholm found Brett Pesce at the point for a one-timer that Teuvo Teravainen redirected in past Keith Kinkaid for the game-winning goal, putting Carolina at least temporarily into a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets — who played late Friday on the West Coast — for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Justin Williams, a thorn in the side of the Devils a night after he scored twice to lead Carolina over the Flyers, added an empty-net goal with 21.4 seconds left to ice it.
“He’s competing. He’s setting the tone,” coach Bill Peters said of Williams. “He’s dragging guys into the battle. You gotta have it and love it. Gotta have it.”
The recently formed fourth line of Derek Ryan centering Lee Stempniak and Victor Rask created several chances throughout the first 30 minutes, and cashed in thanks to some aggressive forechecking.
Rask forced a turnover and got the puck to Noah Hanifin at the point. Hanifin returned the puck to Rask, who backhanded a feed to Ryan. Ryan — struggling through a 15-game goal drought — put the puck on net and it deflected in off New Jersey defenseman Damon Severson and in to give Carolina a 1-0 lead at 11:50 of the second.
I felt like I was getting lots of chances but the puck wasn’t going in for me, and then I kind of make a desperate play in the second and I get a little puck luck — that’s just how hockey works,” Ryan said.
Ryan, however, would take an offensive zone penalty late in the period, and the Devils tied it up.
On the power play, New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen fired a shot from the right boards and Taylor Hall perfectly redirected it past Ward with 32.1 remaining in the first to make it 1-1. The goal pushed Hall’s point streak to 17 games — 24 if you connect two streaks that were disconnected by a three-game thumb injury — and marked the third consecutive game he scored a power play goal.
It was Teravainen, however, that would get the deciding goal, getting to the front of the net and benefitting from the second fortuitous bounce of the night to give Carolina the lead.
“It’s an exciting time of year and every goal is huge,” Teravainen said. “It’s a lot of one-goal games, and you have to find ways to score, you have to (defend) well, and a lot of times it’s just going to be one goal that goes in off your leg or something, and that’s a big goal.”
Notes: The Hurricanes won 33 of 55 faceoffs, led by a 13-for-21 effort by Jordan Staal. … Jeff Skinner played just 11:49, just the 10th time in his career he’s played fewer than 12 minutes. … Williams has scored in consecutive games (three goals total), the first time this season he’s done so.