Babchuk’s goal lifts Hurricanes to fifth straight win

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) — Anton Babchuk already had one of
his noted hard slap shots stopped by Brian Elliott. The Carolina
defenseman wasn’t about to let the Ottawa rookie goalie get his
pads on another one.

Babchuk scored a power-play goal with 6:01 remaining and the
Hurricanes won their season-high fifth straight game, beating
the Senators 2-1 on Wednesday night in a matchup of two of the
NHL’s hottest teams.

“I had a couple good shots before that, but this (last) one went
through him,” Babchuk said. “Just shoot it as hard as I can, try
to hit the net. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes not.”

Rod Brind’Amour tied it for Carolina at 3:15 of the third and
assisted on Babchuk’s winner to help the Hurricanes match a club
record with their ninth straight victory at home, a mark set
during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2005-06. The Hurricanes
also moved a point behind fourth-place Philadelphia in the
Eastern Conference playoff chase.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m proud
that we’re playing in every game, and even though we’ve got some
big wins, we seem to be able to let that go, come back and know
we’ve got to win that next one. … Even though we’re in a
situation where it looks good, ‘Oh, you’re in fourth or fifth or
wherever you are,’ if other teams win those games, we’re really
just barely hanging on.”

Ryan Shannon scored for the Senators, who were denied their
season-high sixth straight win. They had won nine of 10 to move
within nine points of the East’s eighth playoff spot, but fell
to 12-19-4 on the road.

“In spurts, they pressured us, but I thought there were a few
times we were able to maintain some pressure,” Senators coach
Cory Clouston said. “The power play goal at the end was the

Babchuk’s winner came 1:29 into Carolina’s third power play of
the night. He took a feed from Joni Pitkanen near the back of
the right circle and unloaded a blast that beat Elliott for his
13th goal and fourth in five games. The hard-shooting defenseman
has scored two of his three game-winning goals in his last five

“He’s got an unbelievable shot. He’s got to use it,” teammate
Tuomo Ruutu said. “When he uses it, it’s a lot of damage. It’s
so hard, and it’s been accurate lately as well.”

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Elliott, who took a bid for his first shutout into the third,
stopped 28 shots for the Senators before he was pulled with
about one minute left for an extra attacker. Cam Ward, who made
his 23rd straight start, finished with 21 saves for Carolina.

Shannon finally beat Ward and broke a scoreless tie just over a
minute into the third. Nick Foligno scooped up the puck behind
the net and tried to wrap it around and past Ward, but it
slipped past Babchuk and to Shannon, who tapped it in from
point-blank range for his sixth goal.

“I kind of lost it a little bit. … A bad bounce,” Babchuk
said. “But we stuck with our plan, continued to push and scored
two goals.”

Brind’Amour started Carolina’s comeback about two minutes later
in a 4-on-4 situation, snapping the rebound of Ray Whitney’s
shot from the high slot past Elliott. Of his 14 goals, six have
come in the last 10 games – by far the best stretch of the
season for the Hurricanes’ 38-year-old captain.

That quick start to the third was in stark contrast to the way
this one was played during the first two periods – when there
were few shots, fewer penalties and only an occasional quality
scoring chance.

“We just didn’t seem real sharp tonight,” Clouston said.
“Neither team was dominant. It was kind of like a chess match.”

The teams combined for three penalties through 40 minutes, and
Carolina thought it claimed a 1-0 lead roughly five minutes in
when the rebound of Babchuk’s blast clicked off Jussi Jokinen’s
skate and past Elliott. But a review showed that he instead
kicked the puck.

The Hurricanes’ next-best scoring opportunity didn’t come the
opening seconds of the third, when Eric Staal rang the post with
a wrist shot about 45 seconds before Shannon’s goal.

“Before, when we were down 1-0 or it was a (scoreless) game
going into the third, we’d start forcing things. We’d try to
make plays that are not there,” Ruutu said. “They’re going to
get turnovers from those, and we stayed within the system. We
expected we’d get a couple of scoring chances – usually, we do –
and we were lucky enough to score from those.”