Hurricanes hold on, win 8th straight game

Carolina set a team record with a point in 14 straight games

Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta is congratulated by Jordan Martinook and Brent Burns after the team's 6-5 win Friday over the Flyers in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Hurricanes started their three-day Christmas break a little early. Fortunately, they waited long enough to hold off a furious comeback.

Carolina chased Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson in his NHL debut only to see the rookie return when Carter Hart was injured in the third period. The play on which Hart was hurt ended up being the winning goal in a roller-coaster 6-5 win Friday in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Arena.


With former Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo in the penalty box, fellow Flyers blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen cross-checked Carolina forward Seth Jarvis into Hart. While the Flyers goalie writhed on the ice, Jesperi Kotkaniemi fired the puck into the upper portion of the net for a seemingly insurmountable 6-2 lead with just over two minutes left in the second period.

That meant Ersson — sent to sit in the visitor’s tunnel after allowing five goals on 22 shots — had to return to the net.

But the Hurricanes that showed up for the third period were nothing like the team from the first 40 minutes.

“They were unwrapping their gifts, right?” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of his team losing focus in the final 20 minutes. “Thankfully we had a big enough lead.”

Carolina entered the third up four goals having outshot Philadelphia 29-15.

But the Hurricanes unraveled — or perhaps unwrapped — in the third.

Flyers defenseman Nick Seller scored at 6:59 when Carolina defenseman Calvin de Haan bumped into Antti Raanta (26 saves) as the shot from the point approached.

Then the Hurricanes’ power play — which converted on its first two opportunities — allowed shorthanded breakaway goals on each of its third period opportunities.

“We got a couple, which was nice. … Obviously we needed them because we gave them back later,” Brind’Amour said of his team’s power play.

Carolina regrouped in the final 7½ minutes, killing a penalty and getting a couple of clutch saves from Raanta when Ersson made his return to the bench, this time for an extra attacker.

“Not something we want to make a habit of, that’s for sure,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said of the nearly blown lead.

The Hurricanes have, however, made a habit out of winning. Friday’s victory was Carolina’s eighth straight, and the team set a new franchise record with its 14th consecutive game with at least a point.

“It just proves what type of group we have here,” said Jesper Fast, who had two goals. “We trust in what we do, we believe in what we do. We know we’re a very hard team to beat when we play good hockey, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately.”

That’s exactly what Carolina did in the first two periods.

After Raanta stopped Flyers center Scott Laughton on a breakaway in the opening minutes of the game, Carolina took advantage at the other end of the ice.

Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov’s saucer pass was knocked out of the air by Martinook, and Fast collected it at the top of the left circle, wristing a shot past Ersson for a 1-0 lead 3:57 into the game.

“Back-to-back, the legs weren’t going as good,” said Martinook, who also got a critical clear in the final minutes of the game by swatting a puck out of the air, “so I guess I had to have the stick going a little better tonight.”

With the game at 3-1 late in the first, Martinook’s stick did some more traditional work, setting up Fast’s second goal by feeding a pass between two Flyers’ defenders for a one-timer with 55 seconds left in the opening frame.

Martinook added a goal of his own in the second period, redirecting a Brett Pesce shot for his eighth goal to chase Ersson and make the score 5-2 before the midway point of regulation.

In all, the line with Martinook and Fast centered by captain Jordan Staal finished with eight points. Fast matched a career high with his two goals and ended his 17-game goal drought, while Staal had three assists and Martinook had his fourth career three-point game with a goal and two assists.

“That line has just been great all year,” Brind’Amour said.

At 22-6-6, the Hurricanes can rest assured their coach won’t be putting any coal in their stockings during the break.

“We’ve played really well all year,” Brind’Amour said. “ … This group, they play hard. They come ready to go, which is the most important thing.”

Notes: Stefan Noesen got his seventh goal of the season when he redirected a Martin Necas point shot on the power play. … The Hurricanes have won Raanta’s last five starts. … Despite playing under 10 minutes and allowing only one of the six goals, Hart was the losing goalie of record after allowing the Kotkaniemi goal. … Sebastian Aho played for the first time since Dec. 6 after missing seven games. … Brady Skjei returned to the lineup after missing the previous game Thursday due to personal reasons. … Jack Drury and Dylan Coghlan were healthy scratches.