-- Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison
isn't known for his offense. But lately he's got the hot hand for Carolina.
Harrison's wrister through traffic with 90 seconds left in regulation broke a tie as the Hurricanes beat Boston 4-2 Saturday night at the RBC Center. Carolina (16-23-7) has beaten the Bruins in all three meetings this season.
Harrison's story is not widely known around the League, in part because the 29-year-old has played just 166 NHL games. Three seasons ago, Harrison gave up his NHL dream after playing six years in the Toronto organization -- but just 13 games with the Maple Leafs. He opted for a season in Switzerland, hoping to extend his career in Europe, but he slowly made his way back through the Carolina organization.
Known as a defensive defenseman, Harrison has suddenly found a scoring touch at the point.
"It's a good little string, and it's nice to contribute offensively," said Harrison, who has four goals in four games, with overall totals of seven goals and 18 points. "It doesn't change how I feel about my game or what I expect my role to be with the team. My game revolves around playing strong, solid defense, making the first pass, penalty killing. Anything from there I can contribute is a bonus and I'm glad to do it."
He's left a strong impression on coach Kirk Muller, who took over in late November.
"The credit is to him," Muller said. "He's gone through a lot of adversity, trying to prove that he could play in the NHL. He's getting the opportunity and he's talking full advantage of it. I've got him on the power play, he kills penalties, and 5-on-5 he's playing against some of the top guys. So all around he's really deserving of all the ice time he's getting."
The Hurricanes are also leaning on another surprising defenseman, 19-year-old rookie Justin Faulk
. His goal with 6:02 remaining tied the game at 2-2, the second time Carolina bounced back from a one-goal deficit. Like Harrison's shot, Faulk's went through traffic. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas
didn't see it until it was past him.
"In any game, you try to get shots to the net and hope for deflections or rebound goals, and not try to get to be too cute" said Faulk, one of 12 rookies who will take part in the NHL All Star Skills Competition in Ottawa in two weeks.
Faulk also learned how difficult it is to face a team with Boston's size and strength.
"You just try to take their time and space away, and maybe not try to hit 'em too hard because you saw with a couple guys I fell down out there doing that."
The Hurricanes' season has been full of stumbles of one type or another, but not against Boston. Carolina beat the Bruins twice in the first five games of the season as part of Boston's 3-7-0 start. Saturday night's game was another reminder of the Hurricanes' potential.
"Obviously, they've got their game going since the last two times," captain Eric Staal
said. "It was a pretty tight game. It was nice to be rewarded at the end of the night, sticking with what we're doing."
Bruins coach Claude Julien found fault in his team's game.
"We got knocked off the puck way too much tonight, and when they got it back, they made sure that they knew what to do with it," Julien said. "So I give them a lot of credit. They played well tonight. They played with a lot of energy. They certainly had more than we did tonight."
At the same time, Boston had the better of the scoring chances. Cam Ward
's 33-save night included several quality saves, including third-period stops on Gregory Campbell
and Jordan Caron
The Bruins scored the first goal of the game in the second period on a long rebound that Patrice Bergeron
pounded past Ward. But four minutes later, Patrick Dwyer
was credited with the equalizer on a Brandon Sutter
shot that also deflected off a Boston defenseman.
Boston took the lead again early in the third on Milan Lucic
's perfectly placed top-shelf goal. That set up the late-game heroics from Faulk and Harrison.
"Tonight we found a way to lose," Julien added. "We had control of the game, not that it was our best game, but we still felt we had a certain control."
In a strange quirk, the game marked the first time in franchise history that Carolina went without a power play during a home game.
But after a win, that's of no consequence. The Carolina players were in a good mood after securing a second straight win. Staal, who has just 11 goals this season, didn't mind poking fun at how close Harrison looks in the rear-view mirror with seven of his own.
"He's hot," said Staal, who has come alive with four goals and 10 assists in his last eight games. "I was lucky to get that empty net to keep ahead of him a little bit.
"He's been a solid performer all year. He's got a great shot. That was a big goal for us."
And a big win. The Hurricanes will take every opportunity to hang their hats on something positive.
"It shows we can compete with anybody," Harrison said. "On any given night, the effort you put in can be successful. That should suggest to this whole locker room that we aren't far from stringing something together and being very competitive."