With their season literally on the line, the Carolina Hurricanes best players came through to lead them to a clutch 3-0 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night in Raleigh. Cam Ward made 42 saves to earn the shutout while Eric Staal assisted on all three goals to lead Carolina to victory. It was the first time the Hurricanes defeated the Red Wings since 2006.
The Canes are now just two points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has two games remaining.
Despite the shutout, this was not a stellar defensive performance by Carolina. Instead, it was Ward who kept the Wings off the board until his team was able to take the lead. Detroit had plenty of great scoring chances in the the first period, but Ward made 18 saves and it was 0-0 after 20 minutes.
“He [Ward] was great, especially early,” Corey Stillman said after the game. “We rely on him, sometimes way too much, but he came up big tonight, made some saves and in my eyes was the first star.”
The game winning goal came on the power play just 4:04 into the second period. Defenseman Derek Joslin let go a low slap shot to score his first goal as a Hurricane. The play was set up by Stillman who won a battle for the puck along the boards and fed Joslin. The Canes also had some traffic in front of the Red Wings goal to screen goalie Jimmy Howard.
“There were some nerves on our part in the first 20 [minutes],” Carolina Coach Paul Maurice admitted. “We settled down after Joslin’s goal. We skated better and moved the puck better, too.”
Rookie Jeff Skinner added to the lead when he put home the rebound of a Staal slap shot with 1:13 left in the second stanza. It was Skinner’s 30th goal of the season. He leads all rookies with 59 points. Skinner corralled the rebound and went behind the goal to beat oward on a wraparound.
Detroit had a golden opportunity to get back in the game early in the third period when Canes winger Drayson Bowman was assessed a double minor for high sticking. The Wings had a four minute power play and had several quality chances but Ward made five saves and the Carolina penalty killers blocked four shots to prevent the Wings from staging a comeback.
Immediately after the penalty kill, Staal led an odd man rush for the Canes and fed Erik Cole who let a shot go from the right circle that beat Howard and made it 3-0 Hurricanes. That iced the win for Carolina and kept the club’s playoff hopes alive.
The Hurricanes return to action Friday night when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers. Winning both of their final games is essential if Carolina is to qualify for postseason play.
About the Author
Written by Brad Kurtzberg
Hockey writer for more than 10 years. Has been published on Fox Sports, MSG Network, Huffington Post and Inside Hockey. Wrote the book, "Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team" on the old California Golden Seals and is presently working on his second book.