RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltender Cam Ward found his Conn Smythe form against one of the NHL’s best teams Saturday night.
Ward made 39 saves, and Brandon Sutter and Matt Cullen scored in a 26-second span to help the Hurricanes beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2.
“Cam was fantastic tonight,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “I’ll say it again – every once in a while, we actually expect that out of him because we need it in a game like tonight.”
Only 6,896 fans attended the game after snow and ice blanketed the area.
Sergei Samsonov and Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Hurricanes, who have won five of their last six. Ward has stopped 129 of 134 shots in his last four games.
“I feel very comfortable in net,” Ward said. “But that’s a result of the guys playing in front of me. You can see the guys play extremely hard. You can see we’re playing with a lot more confidence. It just urges myself to come up with those key saves.”
Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd scored for Chicago, and Cristobal Huet made 20 saves. Ladd, who beat Ward with a wrist shot in the third period, helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006 before he was traded to Chicago for Tuomo Ruutu last season.
Chicago was 5-3 on its season-high, eight-game trip.
“We’re not complaining, but we thought maybe we deserved a better way to end it today,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
Ward repeatedly foiled one of the NHL’s most dangerous offences to negate a 41-24 Chicago shot advantage.
“We had high-quality chances and had a number of them,” Quenneville said. “He was a big factor.”
After Ladd tied it at 2, LaRose took a slap hot from the left boards that Sutter deflected past Huet with 10:52 remaining.
On the next shift, Tom Kostopoulos rushed up the right side and centred the puck to Cullen, who tipped it past Huet’s blocker.
“I think this is what we all expected,” Cullen said. “It’s disappointing that it comes so late, but at the same time, it’s there and we have a lot of pride.”
The Blackhawks’ exhausting trip – they beat San Jose on Thursday night – combined with the Hurricanes’ recent surge, made for an entertaining game.
Near the end of a fast-paced opening period, Samsonov scored on a rebound.
After Andrew Alberts took a slap shot from close to the blue line, Kostopoulos tipped the puck to Samsonov in the crease. Samsonov had no trouble smacking the puck in the open net for his third goal in three games.
Chicago asserted itself in the second, controlling the majority of the action.
The Blackhawks tied it when Hossa took a pass from Patrick Sharp and cut to centre of slot before backhanding the puck through Ward’s legs.
The Hurricanes got a boost late when Jokinen one-timed a cross ice pass from Eric Staal past a sprawling Huet. Huet originally stopped the shot, but the puck dribbled over the goal line, giving the Hurricanes a goal that survived video review.
Carolina is 11-1-3 when Jokinen scores.
Alberts and Kostopoulos finished with two assists.
NOTES: It was Chicago’s first trip to Raleigh since December 2005. The Blackhawks haven’t won in Raleigh since Jan. 14, 1998. … Staal had his five-game goals streak snapped.