RALEIGH -- Hurricanes defenseman Bryan Allen is not accustomed to taking questions about game-winning goals or cashing in on breakaways.
He accomplished both on the same play Tuesday night, lifting Carolina to a 4-3 over Nashville at the RBC Center.
With the Hurricanes clinging to a 3-2 lead early in the third period, Allen hopped out of the penalty box, took a pass and drove the net on Nashville goaltender Anders Lindback. The stay-at-home defenseman buried the chance for his first goal in 82 games with Carolina since joining the team at the 2011 trade deadline.
"I definitely knew," Allen said when asked if he was aware of his 0-for-Carolina status. "It's one of those things, especially when you see the stat sheet every day and there's a big zero there."
For Allen, the goal was meaningful another level. Considered one of the top defensemen available at the trade deadline, he was not dealt on Monday. Although Allen had a no-trade clause, both he and the Hurricanes are hoping to get a new contract done after the season. Scoring a decisive goal punctuated his value to the team, where he has become a leader in locker room and a valued shot blocker.
Still, there was room for some ribbing after his out-of-character offensive burst. Injured goalie Brian Boucher mimicked Allen's answers to post-game questions before joining the media scrum with a makeshift microphone. Boucher was in time for some memorable moments.
Was that your best move, Allen was asked? "I can't let them all out," he said with a smile before conceding that was looking five-hole all the way.
Then he had to answer for his wobbly goal celebration. He nailed the kneeling double fist-pump, but the 6-foot-5 defenseman didn't quite stick the landing, losing his balance as he stood up.
"I thought I was going to get away without talking about that," he said. "I got a little caught up in the moment I guess. At least I didn't go down, right?"
The Hurricanes had a couple wobbly moments too, but they benefitted from earning the first five power plays of the night.
After Nashville's Craig Smith scored the opening goal at 2:42 of the first period on a goalmouth scramble, the Hurricanes tied it early in the second with Jamie McBain's seventh of the season. Then Colin Wilson gave the Predators a 2-1 when he followed his shot with a backhander that eluded Cam Ward.
That's when the Hurricanes finally found their man-advantage groove, scoring on their fourth and fifth opportunities. Eric Staal, who finished with a goal and an assist, and Tim Brent each shoveled pucks from around the crease into the net for a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
"It was one of those night where you want to keep attacking," Staal said. "We were around it and sometimes you've got to get 'em ugly, and we did tonight."
By then, the Hurricanes had worn down the Predators, who had flown to Raleigh Tuesday morning, unable to leave Nashville after Monday night's 2-1 home win against Los Angeles due to bad weather.
"We wanted to make sure we took advantage of that," said Staal, who has seven goals and 16 points during a nine-game point streak. "Aside from the fact they scored the first goal, I thought our start was pretty good. We were on the attack and throwing a lot of pucks at them."
Nashville was outshot 22-7 midway through the second period, a symptom of both the long stretches of killing penalties and a busy recent schedule.
"We've had five games in eight nights -- I think we were a little tired," coach Barry Trotz said. "Sometimes when you get a little tired mentally you don't have the juice. We didn't have the juice."
But Trotz also felt his team could have made a better showing.
"I'm not going to take anything away from Carolina," he said. "They were working and playing desperate. For two periods, we didn't play desperate hockey. When you don't, you end up in the penalty box, you turn pucks over and you don't get any support on the puck for offensive thrust. Our forecheck was nonexistent."
Nashville's meager offensive output came as Carolina's Cam Ward made his return to the lineup after missing most of five games with a lower body injury.
"I felt good physically, but a little shaky at times in the first couple periods," Ward said. "But come the third period, they came at us pretty good and fortunately I was able to make the saves late in the game."
The Predators managed to cut the lead to 4-3 early in the third when Gabriel Bourque knocked in his own rebound, but they could not get the equalizer despite sending 16 shots at Ward, whose best save came on a blast by Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon that he tracked through traffic.
But most of the kudos on the night belonged to Allen. His rare moment to shine didn't go unnoticed by his coach either.
"He's a character guy," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "He's been playing great. Obviously the game-winner is icing on the cake."
But Muller couldn't help joining in on the sheer amusement of watching Allen score one for the highlight reel.
"He's a little rusty on the celebrating," Muller said, "but it was a big one and it was nice to see."
1 - 0 NSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NSH
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 CAR
4 - 2 CAR
4 - 3 CAR
Holding the stick