November? It’s been more like Yes-vember for the Carolina Hurricanes, who rattled off two straight wins at home in the first two days of the month.
The fun started with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Arizona Coyotes, a win that snapped an eight-game winless streak that plagued the Canes in October. Elias Lindholm scored his first two goals of the year in the first period, Jiri Tlusty added his team-leading sixth goal of the season in the second period and Cam Ward stopped all 25 shots he saw en route to his 22nd career shutout.
"I’m happy for the guys," head coach Bill Peters said after the game. "They worked hard. You saw tonight how hard they worked.”
"It’s a huge relief. Obviously, this is what we’re striving toward – to win hockey games," Ward said following the game. "As tough as it is to stick with it, the guys stuck with it today and got rewarded.”
As nice as it was – and it certainly was nice for the team to finally snag two points, equaling their total from all of October in just 60 minutes – it was one game. For it to mean something, they had to turn around less than 24 hours and do it again.
So that’s what they did, and they did it against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. It was a closer 3-2 contest, but the effort and result were again the same. The Hurricanes grabbed a first-period lead off the stick of Victor Rask, his first career NHL goal, and again from there, they never looked back. Ward rose to the task, especially late in the third period when the Canes had to fend off a Kings’ power play, making 30 saves in his second straight win.
“The mood is a little lighter, so it’s good,” Peters said after a Monday practice. “The atmosphere didn’t get bad at all, but it gets old when you’re still waiting for that first win, so it was good to get one on Saturday and back it up on Sunday.”
Peters noted after Sunday evening’s game that the Hurricanes were beginning to form an identity. When that happens, he said, the players start to believe in the system and in each other. Often times in October, the Canes would dig an early hole and to compensate, some would begin freelancing which in turn caused breakdowns in the system.
The main difference over the weekend? Tempo and speed, Peters said. Part of that was due to the return of forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer, perhaps the two fastest skaters on the team.
“Our D were gapped up better, and our forwards were committed to coming back and working hard away from the puck. We generated more offense, we had the puck more and we got to the net more,” Peters added. “When you do good things and do them consistently, you’ll get rewarded.”
After streaking in a negative direction in October, the Hurricanes are looking to continue their winning ways this week, as they face Columbus in a home-and-home situation on Tuesday and Friday and the Capitals in the District of Columbia on Saturday.
“I think it’s important to establish an identity, and being able to back it up is important. You feel good about yourself moving forward,” Peters said. “We’re healthy, we feel good about our game and we’re improving.”
A new, still unnamed aspect of the Hurricanes’ identity was introduced after Saturday’s win when Peters was finally able to debut the new postgame hardware for the player of the game: a fireman’s helmet adorned with the Canes’ primary logo. Ward was the inaugural recipient, and then the goaltender passed it on to defenseman Justin Faulk on Sunday.
Faulk packed it away in his bag on Monday afternoon.
“This is coming with me,” he said. “We’re giving it out again tomorrow.”