Ward loses in return to Raleigh on Aho’s OT winner

Sebastian Aho spolied Cam Ward's return to Raleigh win the overtime winner in Carolina's 3-2 win over Chicago on Monday. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Six minutes and three seconds into Monday’s game at PNC Arena, the Carolina Hurricanes honored longtime goalie Cam Ward — starting for the first time against his former team as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks — with a video tribute.

It was emotional, with both Ward and the fans showing their appreciation for 13 seasons together. The hospitality lasted for about 34 minutes of game time, until Carolina erased a two-goal lead with power-play goals 66 seconds apart in the second period, then won in overtime on a goal by Sebastian Aho in front of a crowd of 11,221.

“Special teams, that’s how you win in this league,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “So they have to be sharp on them, and obviously that was the key tonight.”

After a blown coverage and a defensive miscue led to goals by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and forward Alex DeBrincat, respectively, gave the Blackhawks a two-goal edge, the Hurricanes’ special teams came to life.

First, an Aho faceoff win went right to Teuvo Teravainen for a slap shot that beat Ward at 14:07 of the second.

It marked the fourth straight game the Hurricanes scored with the man advantage.

“It was kind of a slow start from us and that first period wasn’t good,” Aho said. “I feel like after that goal, we started playing in their end more, and that was huge.”

Then Chicago went right back to the box, and Andrei Svechnikov drew defenders on a drive to the net and dished to Micheal Ferland for an easy tap-in for his ninth goal to tie it.

“That was a huge stretch,” said goalie Scott Darling, who made 33 saves to even his record at 2-2-1 with a respectable .913 face percentage. “We had just let in the second goal. You know, the game could go either way at that point. (For) the PP to come through with two goals was great.”

Darling had earlier made saves on both a breakaway and 2-on-1 rush that could have blown the game open.

“That’s what we need,” Brind’Amour said. “We need saves at times when we break down. … To keep your team in the game, you need it. He was huge. We had some mental lapses to give up those breakaways, that’s all that was. And then we need a goalie to help us out, and he did.”

Then in overtime, Aho got his first goal since Oct. 13 to end it.

Joined by Justin Faulk and Svechnikov — playing his first shift since a board by Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook midway through the third sent him to be tested for a concussion — Aho took a pass against the right boards at the blue line from Faulk and made his way toward Ward.

He cut to the middle and waited out a flailing Seabrook to reach the far hashmark, then slid a shot through the laterally moving Ward’s five hole for the winner.

It sent Ward on his way with a 37-save loss — an admirable, but losing, effort in his return to Raleigh.

“Every win’s huge and every win feels good,” said Darling, who was facing his former team for the fourth time. “It’s always fun to play against the Blackhawks, and I’m happy Cam had a good game but happy we won.”

Notes: Brett Pesce did not play due to a knee injury suffered in Carolina’s previous game against Detroit. He is day-to-day. … It was Svechnikov’s first career two-assist game and second two-point effort. … Carolina scored twice on the power play, using up just 29 seconds total. … The Blackhawks did not have a power play, with the only call against Carolina going to Jordan Martinook for roughing after he confronted Seabrook for his board of Svechnikov. … Valentin Zykov was a healthy scratch.