Hurricanes respond with grinding 2-1 win

Carolina scores twice in the first 30 seconds, and Curtis McElhinney makes the early lead stand up

Devils forward Miles Wood drives to the crease on Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney during Carolina's 2-1 win Sunday at PNC Arena. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes promised a better effort Sunday after a disappointing one the night before. With two goals in the first 30 seconds, they quickly seemed on their way.

The final 59 minutes weren’t as pleasing, but it still resulted in two points with the Hurricanes holding on for a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in front of 11,211 at PNC Arena.

“Who would’ve thought that would have been all the scoring just in the first period, and certainly just for us, just the 30 seconds,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “Every game’s a surprise and not all are the same. And that was a battle and that was a grind, and it’s good for us to play some close games like that to have confidence later on in the season.”

After a dominating Blue Jackets’ win Saturday that left Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour angry at his team for the first time in his brief head coaching career, his on-ice leader got things started in the right direction.

On the game’s opening shift, Jordan Staal sprung Williams in alone on Devils goalie Cory Schneider, and the Hurricanes’ captain slid the puck in just 22 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead and his first goal since Oct. 13.

Then on the very next shift, Teuvo Teravainen found Micheal Ferland at the far post for a one-timer past Schneider (23 saves) that gave Carolina a 2-0 lead just a half-minute into the game.

The Devils did settle in, cutting the lead in half at 6:33 of the first when Pavel Zacha — who got his first goal of the season Saturday — scored on Carolina’s Curtis McElhinney (33 saves) to make it 2-1.

From there, it was — as Williams said — a grind.

“It was a battle game,” Brind’Amour said. “I thought both teams were kind of trying to do the same things.”

McElhinney, making his sixth start with the Hurricanes and first since Nov. 6, was a calming influence in net, improving to 4-2 with his seventh NHL team.

“That’s kind of been my whole career, for the most part, especially in the NHL,” McElhinney said of the long layoff between starts. “I’m used to it. It does have its challenges, but it’s one of those things I’ve grown to become accustomed to over the years. So it feels pretty natural nowadays.”

Brind’Amour credited McElhinney and his other experienced players with helping his young team power through on an off night.

“I thought our best players tonight were our veteran guys,” he said. “I really didn’t like this game for a lot of it. I did like the fact that our guys were competing in front of our net … and we didn’t give up a ton, but we certainly didn’t create very much.”

But it did end with a much-needed two points and renewed optimism.

“It obviously wasn’t our best game, but I thought we worked hard and found a way to get the points,” Staal said.

Notes: Jaccob Slavin was plus-1 on the night — the first time in 15 games (since Oct. 9) he finished with a plus on the scoresheet. He had been a minus the previous six games. … Dougie Hamilton got his first assists since Oct. 14 and finished with a team-high 10 shots attempts and six hits. … McElhinney is now 12-2 in his last 14 games when making 33 or more saves. He was 14-11-5 in his first 30 such games in his career.