Ward makes early lead stand for Hurricanes, 4-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) After going winless in their first eight games, the Carolina Hurricanes have found some answers.
Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash, Justin Faulk and Eric Staal scored as the Hurricanes won their third game in a row with a 4-2 decision over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
''Yeah, we're rolling,'' said Cam Ward, who had 17 saves including several big ones in the closing minutes. ''The guys are playing really well.''
Boychuk and Nash staked the Hurricanes to a quick 2-0 lead at even strength. After Nick Foligno scored the first of his two goals for the Blue Jackets - who have lost their last six - Faulk provided a short-handed goal that proved to be the difference.
On the power play at the outset of the second period, Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson lost the puck on the short boards and Faulk carried the puck up the left wing. He fought off a challenge from Columbus rookie Alexander Wennberg and then lunged while pushing the puck past McElhenny for the short-handed goal.
''It's a momentum swing, for sure,'' Carolina coach Bill Peters said of Faulk's goal. ''It ends up being the game-winner. A huge play. They were thinking of getting one to tie it and the next thing you know you're down two. It's a lot easier to play in this league with a lead - and a two-goal lead is special.''
Foligno scored his second with 5:23 left in the third to cut the lead to 3-2. The Blue Jackets threatened the rest of the way with Ward stopping Scott Hartnell's point-blank shot and Ryan Johansen on a rush. But Staal's late empty-netter put it out of reach.
Curtis McElhenny, the backup to the injured Sergei Bobrovsky, stopped 33 shots for the injury-riddled Blue Jackets. They last lost six in a row (0-5-1) from Jan. 19-Feb. 1, 2013. They hadn't lost six straight in regulation since Nov. 10-20, 2006. Coach Gerard Gallant was fired three days later.
Ward also made a strong save when he got a piece of Cam Atkinson's unobstructed one-timer from the slot in the waning moments of the second period. He also stopped Matt Calvert - just back in the lineup from missing four games with a lower-body injury - on a rush early in the third.
The Hurricanes' top-line center, Staal, said the team is enjoying turning things around.
''We want to keep the feeling going, obviously,'' he said. ''We've got everyone in the lineup who's supposed to be there and we're feeling more comfortable in what we're doing. We've just got to keep it going. It's a lot funner being on the winning side than where we were before.''
Columbus is not having much fun.
''(We were) out battled and outskated for most of the game,'' coach Todd Richards said. ''It looked to me like they wanted it more than we did.''
The Blue Jackets are without four top forwards - Nathan Horton (back), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery), Artem Anisimov (concussion) and Mark Letestu (groin) - along with Bobrovsky and their best offensive defenseman James Wisniewski, the latter two out with broken fingers. One of the team's top defenseman, Ryan Murray, is out with a recurrence of knee problems. And rookie defenseman Cody Goloubef is also sidelined for at least a month with a knee injury.
''We're on a six-game losing skid and there's no reason for it,'' Foligno said. ''How do you win? Usually when you get out of a losing skid it's because you're cracking the net and you're getting ugly goals. You're doing what's necessary to score goals. We're not doing that. We're trying to make an extra play, trying to be too cute.''
Notes: Earlier in the day, the Blue Jackets activated LW Matt Calvert and assigned C Sean Collins to AHL Springfield. ... Carolina RW Alexander Semin, a healthy scratch in the last two games (both wins), returned to the lineup and was on the first line alongside Staal and Jiri Tlusty. ... D Frederic St. Denis played his first NHL game since April 17, 2012, with Montreal, while making his Blue Jackets debut. ... It was the first of a home-and-home series this week between the teams. ... The Blue Jackets got back two key players - LW Matt Calvert and C Boone Jenner, who had missed time with a lower-body injury and a broken hand, respectively.