NEWARK, N.J. – The Carolina Hurricanes could be a very tough team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tuomo Ruutu scored the deciding goal late in the third period and Cam Ward made 31 saves as the Hurricanes extended their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. The Hurricanes are peaking at the right time, with the regular season heading into the final two weeks.
“It’s been huge, but it’s important that we bear down for the last five games,” Ward said. “We haven’t done anything yet, but we’ve certainly set ourselves up for some success. We haven’t clinched yet, so we have to continue to fight.”
The Hurricanes pulled out the latest victory with goals in the final 6:55. Ruutu sealed the win, connecting for a power-play goal with 3:55 remaining. He knocked in a rebound from the slot after Eric Staal tried to jam the puck past goalie Martin Brodeur.
“It was in traffic and I just got the bounce,” Ruutu said.
Brodeur was hoping for a whistle before Ruutu wound up with the puck.
“I thought I had it,” Brodeur said. “That should have been a quick whistle. You get calls on your side sometimes, and sometimes it goes the other way. I thought I had control enough.”
Sergei Samsonov also scored for Carolina, which solidified its grip on a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a determined effort. The Hurricanes pelted Brodeur with 48 shots. Joe Corvo assisted on both goals that came in the final 6:55.
It is Carolina’s best run since the Hurricanes won nine in a row from Dec. 31, 2005-Jan. 19, 2006. The Hurricanes are in fifth place in the East, one point behind Philadelphia.
Patrik Elias scored for New Jersey, the Atlantic Division leaders who lost their fourth straight and had a club-record, home-winning streak snapped at 11. The Devils are third in the East, one point behind Washington.
Elias scored the only goal of the first period with 1:51 remaining. Brian Gionta carried the puck into the Carolina zone before throwing a pass back to Elias, who trailed the play. Elias ripped his 31st goal past Ward from the top of the right circle.
The Hurricanes pressed hard for the equalizer in the second period but they couldn’t dent Brodeur despite taking 18 shots. Brodeur was at his best with Carolina on its lone power play of the period, stopping a blue line blast from Corvo before diving to deny Ray Whitney’s rebound bid.
The Hurricanes’ persistence finally paid off on their 43rd shot. Corvo fired a shot from the right point, and Samsonov pounced on the rebound to tie it at 1.
“The first period might have been a little bit shaky,” Ward said. “We weren’t showing the desperation that we needed. I thought we regrouped and had a pretty solid second period. We threw a lot of pucks at Marty Brodeur.
“It was no surprise he had a great game, but there were rebounds to be had. It was finally nice to cash in.”
After losing 3-2 in overtime to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Friday, the Devils let another game slip away on a late goal.
“It’s got to be a learning experience,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “It’s playoff hockey now. You’re going to get into these one-goal games and you’ve got to do the detail work and the little things well.”
Notes: The Hurricanes scratched C Matt Cullen (lower body injury), RW Scott Walker (upper body injury), D Frantisek Kaberle and C Michael Ryan. The Devils were without D Jay Leach, D Andy Greene and LW Jay Pandolfo. … Corvo played in his 100th game for Carolina. … Ward made his 24th consecutive start, extending the longest stretch of his career. He is 16-6-2 in that span.