Gerber stopped 29 shots in his first appearance in Carolina since he left town, leading the Ottawa Senators to a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. It was Gerber’s first start in eight games.
“You try to put him in a position where there’s a little bit of pressure, but also he had played here before and he knew the shooters, they knew him,” Senators coach Bryan Murray said. “I really felt if he could beat this team, then he was certainly on pace to be back where he should be, and that’s playing quite often.”
Mike Fisher had a goal and an assist, and Christoph Schubert, Patrick Eaves and Chris Neil also scored for the Senators, who won for the fifth time in six games by extending the Hurricanes’ slump.
Andrew Ladd had the lone goal for Carolina, which has lost three of four.
“We put a few lousy ones together as of late,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “What we need to get out of right now is the rut. We’re in a lull right now. We need to snap out of it.”
And this time, they have a former teammate to thank for extending those struggles.
Gerber, in his only season with Carolina, set the franchise record with 38 victories in 2005-06.
But he was supplanted in the playoffs by Cam Ward, who went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy while leading the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup. Gerber refused to take any extra satisfaction out of beating his old team.
“I just tried not to overpush it, just take it as a normal game,” Gerber said.
He signed a three-year, US$11.1 million deal with Ottawa in the offseason, and became the star of his Raleigh return by stopping the final 28 shots he faced.
“This is the type of guy we thought we were signing,” Murray said.
John Grahame, making his third straight start and first with Carolina at the RBC Center, stopped 32 shots but was under siege throughout.
“We had an identity last year that nobody was going to beat us at home, but last year is last year, and we have to put that aside,” right wing Justin Williams said. “We have to realize that we have to make it hard for other teams to come into our building and take two points. Ottawa took it to us tonight.”
Schubert put Ottawa up 2-1 4 minutes into the second period when he took Jason Spezza’s drop pass just inside the blue line and beat Grahame with a slap shot.
Then, midway through the period, the Senators turned a Carolina miscue into a 3-1 lead. Fisher scored on a 2-on-2 break which started with Peter Schaefer’s takeaway from Bret Hedican in the neutral zone.
Neil scored a power-play goal midway through the second after another giveaway by the Hurricanes, using his stick to redirect Dany Heatley’s shot from the slot moments after Grahame and defenseman Tim Gleason lost control of the puck near the goal line.
Ladd gave the Hurricanes a lead in the opening moments when he snapped a shot past a diving Gerber at 2:30. Ottawa tied it about 3 minutes later when Eaves tapped a rebound past Grahame.
“We scored the first goal, but then allowed them to come back in the next few minutes,” Williams said. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
Notes: Heatley now has eight goals and 12 assists in 18 career games versus Carolina. Teammate Daniel Alfredsson has recorded a point in 12 of his last 13 games against the Hurricanes. … Spezza has points in three straight games. … Carolina LW Erik Cole played in his 300th game.