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Gibson, Beleskey help Ducks edge Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau figured his team didn't have much left to give on the final night of a five-game, eight-day road trip. As it turns out, they had just enough.

The Ducks started slow but scored twice in the second period to come back and defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at PNC Arena on Thursday.

"I don't think there was a lot of gas left in the tank in a lot of guys," Boudreau said. "This has been a long trip where we've gotten into the next town no earlier than 2 a.m. every day. Sometimes wins like this jump start you to play better. That's what we're hoping for."

Matt Beleskey had a goal and an assist, and John Gibson made 35 saves for Anaheim (35-14-7). Gibson was making his first start since Oct. 30; he was recalled from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

Boudreau worked the Ducks hard in practice Wednesday, unsatisfied with consecutive losses when they gave up 11 goals.

Midway through the second period, the game was scoreless, but the Ducks were being outshot 24-7.

"I didn't think we were playing very good and they were coming at us pretty hard," Boudreau said.

The Hurricanes (19-27-7) scored at 9:40 of the second with Jeff Skinner's 11th goal, on the power play. Gibson caught a piece of Skinner's shot from the right circle, but it deflected off the goaltender's shoulder and fell behind him. Skinner curled to the right post and tapped in the puck.

Three minutes later, a fight between Ducks forward Tim Jackman and Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason seemed to jump start Anaheim.

"That really turned the tide," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "That was probably the perfect time to do it because he got the ball rolling."

Less than two minutes later, the Ducks scored. Perry's strong drive to the net was turned away by Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, but when the puck popped loose near the right post, Beleskey's backhand went off Francois Beauchemin's stick for the goal.

Beleskey gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at 17:30 of the second. Kyle Palmieri centered a pass from behind the net, but Victor Rask struggled to clear the puck. Beleskey used a quick stick to poke in the puck.

"When you're in a slump like [ours], you've got to go to the net and whack it," Beleskey said. "I didn't aim on either of them. I was just trying to hit the puck and they found their way."

Beleskey has 21 goals through 55 games, far outpacing his NHL career-high 11 in 2009-10.

"He's going to the net with a lot of urgency," Perry said. "Both goals he was right there in the crease. That's what you get when you go to the net. There's a price to be paid but there's a reward."

Beleskey attributed his breakthrough season to a variety of factors.

"Some confidence, a little more ice time, a little more opportunity out there," he said. "Just hard work. It's been coming along year by year. Like I've been saying for five years now, I'm working on my consistency in the game, and hopefully that keeps coming together."

Gibson's return to the NHL came after a groin injury in November and an extended stay in Norfolk. He was especially sharp in the first 30 minutes, making several key saves on Jiri Tlusty and Skinner, who combined for 12 shots.

"We expect that type of performance from him," Boudreau said. "That's why he had the opening-night start. We know he's a good goalie. When we put him in, we have all the confidence in the world, and he's a determined young man. He played great for us tonight."

Gibson, who was 6-3-2 with the Admirals with a 2.07 goals-against average, said he was comfortable jumping back into NHL play.

"The speed is faster, but I can get ready for that. I'm ready whenever my name is called," he said. "When there was a rebound, they cleared it out, so it was a team effort. As the game went along, I got more comfortable."

The Hurricanes had a two-game winning streak end. After a fast start, Carolina lost its offensive momentum once Anaheim connected for two goals.

"We quit moving the puck and started skating with it," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "When you're skating with it, you're moving it slower than if you're [passing] it. As the game went along, guys started doing a bit too much on plays that weren't there."

Failing to find the net early in the game proved to be Carolina's undoing.

"We had a good start, obviously," Peters said. "We had a false sense of security offensively. Especially in the third, we looked at all our chances and there isn't a Grade A. The puck speed went away, we started to play slow."

Boudreau may have wanted more from the Ducks on their five-game trip, but they have 77 points, good for a 13-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division.

"There's going to be smiles on the way home," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "That's what we talked about going out for the third period. To go 2-2-1, five points out of 10, it's good. But there's a lot of work to be done."

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