|Hurricanes' Rod Brind'Amour, left, and Chad LaRose celebrate LaRose's game-winning goal as Carolina defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1.
“Everyone knows that this League, top to bottom, it’s pretty even,” Brind’Amour said. “If your power play is off a little bit or your goaltending’s not really up to snuff, you’re not going to make the playoffs. It’s that simple. We know that.”
The Hurricanes were able to strike on the man advantage, while Cam Ward improved to 5-0 in regulation in a 19-save effort in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at the RBC Center on Monday night.
The Canucks (4-5-0) have dropped three of their last four and have experienced extreme difficulty putting a 60-minute effort together. They struggled mightily early, as the Hurricanes out-shot them 16-6 in the opening period and held a 20-6 edge at one point during the second.
''We won lots of games last year,” Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo said. “We were not pleased with our effort, but we were finding ways to win. I think that's what's missing right now. We're not finding ways to win on a consistent basis.''
Carolina drew first blood when Cory Stillman scored a power play goal 5:07 into the second period. With Matt Cooke serving a roughing penalty, Stillman took a pass from Ray Whitney and one-timed a shot past Luongo as the Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead. It was Stillman’s third goal of the season. All of his tallies have come via the power play.
''It's important for a power play to continue to score,'' Stillman said. ''One a game, two a game, will allow us to win a lot of hockey games.''
Chad LaRose put Carolina up by a pair with his second goal of the season at the 7:01 mark of the third period. After taking a pass from Brind’Amour (two assists), LaRose fired a high shot that rocketed past Luongo’s glove.
“I was coming in fast on him and when I got close, he started backing in closer to the net and it was just there,” LaRose said. “I didn’t shoot it very hard, but it looked like he thought I was going to the backhand.”
Indeed, LaRose took advantage of a golden opportunity. Usually a fourth-line player and penalty killer, LaRose was promoted to a line with Brind’Amour and Justin Williams while Andrew Ladd recovers from an ankle injury.
“I’m so excited, I’m having trouble sleeping at night,” LaRose said. “I am so excited for every day to come to the rink and be in the room with these guys.”
With only 6:41 remaining in regulation, Brendan Morrison ruined Ward’s shutout bid and cut the deficit in half with his fourth goal of the season. After Brad Isbister failed to convert on a wraparound attempt, Morrison collected the rebound and stuffed it past Ward to make it 2-1.
“I’ll get one here sooner or later,” said Ward, who entered the game with a 1.97 GAA. “But as I said at the beginning of the season, it’s all about the win column. We’re playing some really good hockey. You never want to look back on the season and wish you had a better effort here or there. Every game is really valuable.”
The Hurricanes (5-1-3) sealed the victory when Whitney notched an empty-net tally with 33 seconds to play. It was credited as a power play goal after the Canucks were whistled for having too many men on the ice. In the end, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette was impressed with the way his team took care of business on home ice after dropping the last two games on the road.
''Coming back home, you always have concerns about trying to be too cute or your thought process going into the game,'' Laviolette said. ''I thought we were very sharp in both areas tonight.''
Indeed they were, despite being forced to play without Ladd, Erik Cole and Scott Walker, who are all out with injuries. But the Hurricanes still found a way to snap a two-game skid that featured a shootout loss to Pittsburgh and an overtime loss at Philadelphia.
“There are some bumps and bruises going on in the training room right now,” Laviolette said. “To establish yourself as a good team you have to fight your way through injuries and I thought guys stepped up -- the veteran players stepped up, the guys in new roles and the call-ups. I thought it was a really positive team effort for us.”
Despite the loss, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was pleased with the way his team responded after a rough start. Nonetheless, Vancouver is still in search of the complete effort that has been elusive thus far.
''If you take away the shots after the first 11 minutes, the shots and the chances were about the same,'' Vigneault said.
Material from wire services was used in this report.