NEW YORK – The road is suddenly kinder to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ray Whitney scored 3:45 into overtime and the Hurricanes earned a split of their home-and-home series against the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory on Saturday.
Carolina, with an NHL-worst 29 points, won on the road for just the third time this season (3-13-4). Coupled with a 6-3 victory at Washington on Monday, the Hurricanes have their first winning streak away from home.
“We’re on a roll,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “We won our last two, and goaltending was the difference in both. Cam Ward was really good.”
Ward played for the 11th time in 12 games after a 13-game absence caused by a lacerated left leg and made 27 saves. He was also helped by five Rangers drives that struck the post or crossbar.
The Rangers, however, benefited from at least three Hurricanes shots that found iron in New York’s 2-1 win at Raleigh on New Year’s Eve.
“It was my turn,” Ward said. “We definitely got some lucky bounces, but I think you earn those lucky bounces.”
Tom Kostopoulos staked the Hurricanes to a 1-0 lead in the second period, and Whitney finished off the win. Carolina tried to protect the one-goal edge, but Marian Gaborik got the Rangers even in the third.
Whitney controlled the puck amid pressure along the left wing boards, moved it to Matt Cullen behind the New York net and took a return feed in front for his 11th goal and first in nine games.
The Hurricanes (11-23-7) are 4-6-2 overall in their last 12. It was their first win in four overtime games not decided by shootout.
“It’s really important for us because we are looking for confidence in any area that we can find it,” Maurice said.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who injured his neck after making a save late in regulation, stopped 17 shots. Lundqvist, in his 15th straight start, allowed two goals or fewer for the 11th time in 14 games.
The Rangers are 5-1-2 in their past eight, but have scored two goals or fewer in 14 of 18.
“It’s frustrating to go into OT in a game like this where we played so well and had such great chances,” Lundqvist said. “We could have killed this game in the second period, if not, definitely in the third. I’ve seen these guys score in practice. I know they can do it.”
Gaborik, who moments earlier struck the post, tied it at 9:08 of the third.
After Brandon Dubinsky’s shot from the boards hit traffic in front, Gaborik – the NHL leader with 27 goals – scored with a blind backhander from the slot. Gaborik was met with a bear hug from Dubinsky as the Rangers celebrated their first goal at home in 114 minutes, 4 seconds over three games.
Gaborik has scored 25 per cent of the Rangers’ 108 goals this season. He turned boos that had rained down on the home team during the uninspiring first two periods into cheers.
“We have to get someone to step up and score a goal other than Gabby,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We played well. To me it shouldn’t even be there. We should have two points at the end of regulation. I’m not whining about it. I am just frustrated for the players. We have to get it done offensively somehow.”
Kostopoulos broke the scoreless deadlock with 45.9 seconds left in the middle period when he got to a loose puck in the slot – after Jiri Tlusty’s shot was blocked – and swept it past Lundqvist.
Kostopoulos had gone 16 games since his previous goal Nov. 29 at Anaheim. He has three goals this season and 43 in 417 NHL games.
NOTES: The Rangers are 2-0-1 against the Hurricanes this season. … Tlusty’s previous NHL assist came Jan. 16, 2009, at Atlanta, but that was only five games ago for the 21-year-old centre. … Gaborik’s goal was his second at even-strength in 14 games. … Both teams were 0 for 4 on the power play. … New York is 1-5-3 in its last nine at home, scoring two goals or fewer in each loss.