When a team is trying to overcome a season-long funk, it doesn't matter who provides the key moments.
Carolina forward Drayson Bowman
, a minor-league call-up playing in his fourth game of the season, scored the Hurricanes' first goal and the go-ahead tally as Carolina rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks
4-3 at the RBC Center on Thursday night.
The win was the first at home for Carolina coach Kirk Muller; the 'Canes had been 1-5-1 overall and lost all three home games since he took over after Paul Maurice was fired on Nov. 28.
"It was a gutsy win," Muller said on a night when his team came back after trailing 2-0 late in the second period. "We had some key guys out, and to spot them two (goals) -- that's not the way you want to go. But they stayed with it. We scored at the key times."
Bowman has been heralded as one of the Hurricanes' top prospects since making his NHL debut two seasons ago. But he has been limited to fourth-line minutes since the start of the 2010-11 season, with no goals in 26 games after scoring twice in a nine-game look-see in 2009-10.
"It kind of feels like time is ticking on you a bit when you go so long without scoring," the 22-year-old admitted. "I appreciate the way (Muller) has let me free up and play my game, other than the things he's been preaching to the team."
Both of Bowman's goals came at critical times.
With Carolina trailing 2-0 late in the second period, the 2007 third-round pick took an Anthony Stewart
pass from the goal line and flipped the puck over goaltender Cory Schneider
's right pad at 15:52.
After Tuomo Ruutu
's tip-in tied the game with less than a minute remaining in the period, Bowman struck again, this time on a snap shot from the right circle to give Carolina a 3-2 lead 37 seconds into the third.
While the shots both had a scorer's touch, Bowman was just happy they found their way into the net.
"If they looked that way, that's great," he said with a smile. "You're just doing the things you've been doing throughout your career -- just going to the net hard and shooting it as quick as you can. It feels really good. Hopefully it gives me some confidence going forward."
Under Maurice, many young players earned their ice time by playing responsible defense on the fourth line. But the late-November coaching change signaled a new direction, one that Muller said will include leaning on some young players.
"You can't play nervous," Muller said. "I know young kids have to earn their time, but I think you have to put them in a spot where they can excel. If you keep throwing them on the fourth line when they come up, they're going to be out of their element."
The Hurricanes looked a little out of their element early in the game. They squandered three first-period power plays and surrendered the first goal, a one-timer by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa
just 5:19 after the opening faceoff. The Canucks took a 2-0 lead 9:51 into in the second period when Henrik Sedin
centered a pass from behind the net to Mason Raymond
in the slot, and Raymond beat Ward for his second of the season.
But Ward looked strong the rest of the way, stopping 32 shots, including a spectacular glove save late in the game on Keith Ballard
. After Jaroslav Spacek
's first Carolina goal gave the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead and Alexandre Burrows
made it a one-goal game with 11:20 left in regulation, Ballard had a chance to tie the game, facing an open net on the doorstep of the crease. Ward was lying flat on the ice but reached across to snag Ballard's shot.
"I anticipated the pass and threw my stick out there, but I obviously missed the pass," said Ward, who raised his record to 10-13-4. "I needed his help. It was just pure desperation trying to cover as much net as possible when it seems like he's got a tap-in."
Vancouver (18-11-2) had early control of the game, particularly after killing three early penalties.
"We had quite a few quality chances to put that game away and we didn't," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We weren't able to bury some grade-A chances, we made a couple mistakes, got in penalty trouble, then it was 4-2.
"It's really tough to come back in this League, especially against a world-class goaltender."
Both teams were at less than full strength. The Canucks played without their top scorer, Daniel Sedin
, who had back spasms Thursday morning. Carolina was without the services of forward Jeff Skinner
and defensemen Joni Pitkanen
and Jay Harrison
-- all of whom are dealing with concussions.