RALEIGH, N.C. – Ray Whitney has seen just about everything in his 17 seasons in the NHL, but he never thought he’d see 300 career goals.
Whitney’s hat trick Friday night gave him 300 and helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Calgary Flames 6-1. “I’ve been bought out twice, on waivers twice,” Whitney said. “I’ve seen it all, that’s for sure, so 300, I’ll take that. Probably a lot of people didn’t think that would happen, myself included.”
He reached the milestone with three power-play goals, giving the Hurricanes their sixth win in eight games as they fight for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Carolina outshot Calgary 33-22, nearly shutting out one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams.
Whitney’s scoring and Cam Ward’s 21-save effort made for a happy homecoming for forward Erik Cole, who scored a first-period goal in his first game back with the franchise after a trade-deadline deal with Edmonton on Wednesday.
“He didn’t disappoint,” Whitney said. “He played the game that we thought he would. Getting a goal, I thought, was big for him to ease any pressure he might have felt.”
Eric Staal nearly scored 35 seconds in, on Cole’s first shift, before the teams settled into a physical, defensive battle for most of the first period.
Three goals by Carolina in the final 5:09 sealed the Flames’ fate.
Calgary, coming off a 5-1 victory in Philadelphia on Thursday, had scored at least four goals in its last five games.
“I think it just goes to show the potential we have as a team,” Ward said. “It was a true test against arguably one of the top teams in the league, and we played a complete 60 minutes tonight.”
It was a test for the Carolina defence, which allowed only Jarome Iginla’s 29th goal with 3:49 left. But the offence got a break when Calgary went with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney.
The second-year goalie, winless in 13 NHL appearances, was subbing for NHL wins leader Miikka Kiprusoff, who had 35 saves in Philadelphia on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, he’s had a lot of ‘One of those games,”‘ Iginla said of McElhinney. “He made a great save off the start and it could have been a game-breaker save, but unfortunately we didn’t respond.
“We all feel responsible and it’s hard to accept for him.”
Calgary fell to 2-7-1 on the second night of back-to-back games. Each of those games has been away from home.
The Hurricanes play a road end of a back-to-back on Saturday at Tampa Bay. Coach Paul Maurice likes the way his team is playing, but doesn’t expect the sort of outburst he saw Friday.
“We’re not (always) going to score six,” Maurice said. “You can’t plan on that. You gotta plan on the grind.”
Notes: Scott Walker, in his second game back from injury that caused him to miss 15 games, had his first goal since Jan. 15 for Carolina. … Cole, a key member of Carolina’s 2002 and 2006 teams that played in the Stanley Cup finals, scored his 17th goal of the season. … Its been a bad week for Calgary against the Southeast Division. The Flames have allowed 14 goals in the past two games against Southeast opponents. Calgary lost 8-6 to Tampa Bay on Sunday. … Calgary is in the third game of a season-high seven-game trip.