To bust their five-game slump, the Carolina Hurricanes said they would need everyone to contribute, to set aside the individual and come out of it together.
So, that’s what they did.
The Canes consistently rolled four forward lines and three defensive pairings. No forward logged less than 11:22 of ice time, and each blue liner played at least 15:29.
“Last night was a game where we used everybody,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We needed everybody to get us out of the situation we were in, and everyone participated and probably felt like they helped out in the win last night.”
Contributions were evident from top to bottom.
Eric Staal recorded the primary assist on Jordan Staal’s game-tying goal, the first brotherly connection between the two as teammates. (It’s important to consider, as they usually center the first and second lines, that they are rarely on the ice at the same time.)
Tuomo Ruutu was a wrecking ball on the third line, leading the team with eight hits.
Ryan Murphy separated Adam Hall, who was a Hurricane for a very brief period of time last season, from the puck with a solid hip-check at the end of the second period, just a game after he was fined for a borderline hit of the same variety on Derek Dorsett.
Manny Malhotra scored the game-winning goal in overtime on a breakaway off a pass from Ron Hainsey.
Justin Peters made 28 saves, earning his first win in five consecutive starts.
“It was nice because Jordan got a big goal, Manny being a new guy getting a clutch goal and Peters getting a win,” Muller said. “They found a way to win that game last night.”
Reinserting veteran forward Radek Dvorak in the lineup gave the Canes a different, yet balanced look on the fourth line, pairing two experienced players with a younger guy in Drayson Bowman.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Malhotra’s last overtime goal came on April 5, 2001, when he was a member of the New York Rangers. Also on that team? Dvorak.
Skating alongside teammates 12 years removed, Bowman said, was a seamless task.
“They were great last night. They make the game easy. Clearly, you can tell they have a lot of experience,” he said. “There was a lot of talking and chatting on the bench and on the ice. It makes the line work pretty well together, and it was a lot of fun last night.”
For Bowman, who had logged 120 NHL games coming into Tuesday night, playing on the same line with two guys who had combined for 2,077 games was a learning experience.
“Anytime you can pick something up from two veteran guys like that, it’s great,” he said. “You see their passion, still, for the game.”
“It’s really nice having a fourth line like that,” Muller said. “A kid like Bowman is going to really learn a lot by playing with two veteran guys like Manny and Radek.”
He didn’t hold the line back, either. Bowman logged 11:26 of ice time, while Dvorak pushed 15 minutes, and Malhotra played nearly 16.
“What it brings is stability in our lineup. After any type of uncertainty or tide changes, now I feel I have a line that I can just throw out there, stabilize things and get that comfort zone again,” Muller said. “They’re going to be consistent and solid, and that’s a valuable line to have with that experience.”
“For us, it’s great to get involved a little bit more and bring something more to the table,” Bowman said. “It’s a lot easier to stay in the game. It makes everything easier. You feel better, your legs are into it, your head’s into more and you have more fun.”
A complete game with all involved was what the Canes needed to finally notch a victory. Last-minute win or not, two points are two points. And winning is a lot more fun than losing.
Peters said as much last night.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said, simply.
That much was evident still this morning.
“A few more smiles around here, but at the same time it’s one win,” Bowman said. “We’ve got to keep pressing, and we certainly can’t rest on that. It went down to the wire, and if we keep bringing the same work ethic, it will turn for us.”
“It is,” Muller said with a smile. “It gives everyone a chance to take a [breath] and look back at our last couple of games and pick up the stuff that we have to keep building on.”