ST. PAUL, Minn. – Coming in cold is never easy in sports, especially for an NHL goalie.
Justin Peters had a rough start for Carolina. Niklas Backstrom finished strong for Minnesota.
Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise scored with the first two shots of the season against Peters, and the Wild beat the Hurricanes 3-1 on Thursday night after both starting goalies got hurt.
“You can’t really pick and choose what happens there. You have to be ready no matter what happens,” said Backstrom, who stopped all seven shots he faced in the third period after Josh Harding was pulled at the second intermission because of a lower-body injury. “Don’t hide behind any excuses. Just go out there and try to help the guys.”
The Wild had no update on Harding’s condition, but the Hurricanes announced before the second period was over that Cam Ward would miss three to four weeks with his lower-body injury. Ward was hurt just 4:07 into the game, and the Wild didn’t take it easy on Peters, who stopped 19 shots after settling in.
“I knew before long I was hopefully going to get an opportunity. It just came a little earlier than I thought,” said Peters, who was called up from the AHL 10 days earlier and played in 47 games for the Hurricanes over the past four years.
“Once I got into the game, I definitely felt a little more comfortable,” he said. “I’m just trying to prove to myself that I’m an NHL goalie and instil that trust in the team.”
Ward started eight of Carolina’s 10 games, and Anton Khudobin took the other two. Khudobin, a former Wild prospect, is out with a lower-body injury for at least another week. Mike Murphy will be summoned from the AHL for Friday’s game at Colorado. Peters went 4-11-1 last season with a 3.46 goals-against average.
“This is his opportunity, and he’s got to find a way to get the job done,” coach Kirk Muller said.
Alexander Semin’s power-play goal in the second period pulled the Hurricanes within one, but they couldn’t muster any more in the final frame.
Less than 8 minutes into the first action of the season for Peters, after Semin was whistled for interference, the Wild scored on a power play when Mikael Granlund plucked the puck off the end boards and fed Niederreiter in the slot for a wrist shot he set up with a slick backhanded move.
“You want to get the pucks to the net as quick as you can,” Niederrieter said.
About 3 1/2 minutes later, Jared Spurgeon sent a slap shot pinging off the pipe. Parise beat defenceman Ryan Murphy to the deflection, and the rebound goal made it 2-0. Dany Heatley got his first goal of the season in the closing seconds, an empty-netter on a power play, to clinch the Wild’s second straight win. They are 4-0-2 at home.
The Wild played a sloppy second period, letting the Hurricanes climb back in the game. Backstrom came out for the third, his first appearance since an unspecified lower-body injury led to his early exit from the Wild’s third game of the season. Harding took all but one start since, and he has been shining.
The NHL’s Masterton Award winner for perseverance and dedication for overcoming multiple sclerosis last season and playing an entire playoff series for the Wild, Harding entered the night with the second-best goals-against average in the NHL at 0.96. He stopped 20 of 21 shots before leaving.
Backstrom said he is not quite at full strength yet, but that will have to do.
“I thought he played great in this game, coming in in a tough situation,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Peters wasn’t quite as strong, but he couldn’t be blamed.
“I don’t know if the score is always the … exact way how it went, but we didn’t do enough to win,” Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk said.
NOTES: Ward stopped all five shots he faced. … Yeo said he anticipated D Jonas Brodin being cleared to skate Friday, with a full mask to protect his broken right cheekbone. Brodin took a puck to the face in the previous game. … The Wild gave up 28 shots, their third-highest total of the season, and were outshot at home for the first time in six games. … The Wild are the only team in the league allowing an average of less than 1 goal per game in 5-on-5 play. They have given up five in 11 games this season.