PITTSBURGH – Cam Ward kept the Carolina Hurricanes’ roller-coaster season on an upward track heading into the all-star break.
Ward made 32 saves, while Ray Whitney and Eric Staal scored as the Hurricanes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night. Ward earned his 100th career victory for the Hurricanes, who won on consecutive nights. The two straight wins come after five losses in a row – which followed a four-game winning streak.
“We were talking about using these last two games as a momentum-booster going into the all-star break,” said Ward, who made his 13th consecutive start for Carolina. “We had a great effort last night followed by another tonight, which was important to get that good feeling for the break.”
League scoring-leader Evgeni Malkin had a goal for Pittsburgh, the Eastern Conference champion which fell into 10th place in the conference heading into the all-star break.
“That’s a game that I thought we were going to win,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “I thought we were prepared, I thought we played well in the first period, we had chances.
“Cam Ward was outstanding and he kept their team in the game.”
The Hurricanes killed off four minutes of power-play time over the final 4:15 of the game after Tim Gleason was given a double-minor for high-sticking Malkin. Ward’s finest stop during that span was on Malkin from point-blank range with 24.1 seconds to play.
“It’s frustrating,” said the Penguins’ Jordan Staal, Eric’s younger brother. “At times, our power play has been great, and at times it has been not-so-great. And there it’s a big moment for our power play to clinch a point for us. We should be able to go out and do it.”
Ward allowed one goal over 120 minutes during about a 27-hour period. He stopped all 35 shots Monday night in Toronto.
The only goal Ward allowed Tuesday came 2:33 into the game, Malkin’s 19th of the season. On a power play, Malkin corralled a rebound of Philippe Boucher’s shot while standing on the goal line to the right and behind Ward, flipping a shot and whacking at the rebound to stuff it past Ward.
“They’ve got arguably two of the best players in the league in Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby, and we did an excellent job on them,” Ward said. “It looked like they were getting a little frustrated with being bumped around.”
Whitney tied it at 14:30 with a power-play goal of his own, a slap shot from the point that met traffic in front of the net. The puck appeared to deflect off Pittsburgh defenceman Rob Scuderi and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for Whitney’s 15th.
It was the first goal Pittsburgh had allowed in 99 minutes, 52 seconds.
Staal scored the winner while standing all alone just to the left of Fleury eight minutes into the second, taking a pass from Justin Williams and redirecting it in for his 20th.
“They didn’t clear the puck and (Williams) was really moving his feet, skating, competing, bursting onto the puck,” Staal said. “He made a quick play to me. I was down on top of the crease where I like to be and fortunately it went in.”
In addition to the streaks the past three weeks, Carolina’s season already has also included four-and three-game winning streaks, two three-game losing skids and a stretch in which the Hurricanes gained at least a point in six straight games.
“It’s the emotions of our season,” coach Paul Maurice said. “(Two weeks ago) we had just won four in a row and were on our way to winning the conference. Ten days later we were going to finish 15th. Those are the emotions you deal with back-to-back games. At least now we can take the All-Star break, enjoy the time off and come back excited.”
Notes: Carolina RW Scott Walker left the game during the first period with an upper body injury, and Hurricanes D Niclas Wallin left during the second period due to a lower body injury. Neither player returned. … Malkin has 99 career goals. … The Hurricanes improved to 7-2 in the second of back-to-back games this season. … Williams has 200 points with Carolina.