RALEIGH, N.C. – Jussi Jokinen and the Carolina Hurricanes finally got to feel good about themselves Sunday.
Jokinen scored the winning goal in the shootout and the Hurricanes beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 to end a 14-game winless streak.
“It’s one of the best feelings,” Jokinen said. “We’ll take the two points.”
Carolina’s second shooter in the shootout, Jokinen went to his backhand and lofted the puck above the glove of Niklas Backstrom. It was Jokinen’s 25th career shootout goal, most in NHL history. He also has eight game-winners in the format.
When Michael Leighton stopped Marek Zidlicky on the Wild’s final chance, the Hurricanes had their first win since Oct. 9.
Leighton made 28 saves in his second start of the season and Ray Whitney, Jokinen, Joe Corvo and Brandon Sutter scored in regulation for Carolina, which blew two three-goal leads.
“We’re not throwing any back at this point,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ll take it.”
Robert Earl scored the first two goals of his career, John Scott added his first career goal and Antti Miettinen also scored for the Wild. Minnesota has never won in Carolina and is 2-10-1 on the road this season.
Earl and Scott sparked the Wild’s rally late in the second, scoring 19 seconds apart to slice Carolina’s lead to 4-3. Earl then tied it 2:21 into the third, snapping the puck past Leighton’s glove.
“It was pretty special,” Earl said. “It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m ultimately just glad that I was able to contribute and give us a chance to win.”
It was a costly victory for the Hurricanes, whose winless streak was one short of the franchise record. Three Carolina players left with injuries and did not return – defenceman Joni Pitkanen (lower body), forward Scott Walker (upper body) and forward Stephane Yelle (lower body).
Carolina opened the scoring 2:45 into the game when Matt Cullen won a faceoff in the Minnesota zone and passed the puck to Tuomo Ruutu. Ruutu snapped a shot at Backstrom, but the puck deflected off Minnesota defenceman Kim Johnsson’s skate to Jokinen, who swiped it into the net.
Corvo added a power-play goal near the end of the first and Whitney made it 3-0 in the second when he slapped a shot past Backstrom, who was screened on the play.
Miettinen then got the Wild on the boards but Whitney responded for the Hurricanes. He eluded Wild defenders near the boards before centring to Sutter, who was wide open in front of net.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the win,” Leighton said. That’s all this team cares about right now.”
NOTES: Carolina D Aaron Ward (lower-body injury) missed the game. Ruutu earned his 100th NHL assist on Jokinen’s first-period goal. Minnesota won the first meeting of the season 3-2 in overtime. Carolina has allowed three or more goals in 12 straight games.