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Hurricanes get past Blue Jackets for third straight win

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- A week ago, the Carolina Hurricanes might have blown the lead and possibly the game. But back-to-back victories after going winless in the first eight games of the season gave them the confidence to hold off the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 4-2 win Tuesday in Nationwide Arena.

Carolina was winless in six road games but led 3-1 late in the third period with goals from Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash and Justin Faulk before Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno got his second goal of the game with 5:23 left when he skated out of the right corner and stuffed the puck past Carolina goaltender Cam Ward for his sixth goal.

"The third period was a little bit muddy but we were able to battle through it," Boychuk said.

The Hurricanes (3-6-2) have now won three straight; Columbus (4-8-0) has lost six in a row for the first time since Jan. 2013.

"We were outbattled, outskated," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richard said. "It looked like to me [Carolina] wanted it more. Some guys are engaged. Other guys are not engaged."

Ward denied Scott Hartnell from close range with a save off his right arm with two minutes left. The Blue Jackets pulled goalie Curtis McElhinney (33 saves) in the final minute but Eric Staal scored into an empty net with 12 seconds remaining.

"They seemed to stick around," Ward said of Columbus. "Towards the end they got some big bodies that created chaos and traffic in front of the net that made it awfully difficult. Our D-men did a great job sealing out.

"The puck never seemed to get to me. That's a compliment to the guys in blocking a lot of shots. I was working but I didn't have to touch the puck."

Carolina has started to turn things around because it is getting consistent play from Ward, who made 17 saves in his fourth straight start. He stopped 25 shots Saturday in a 3-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes and 30 of 32 on Sunday for a 3-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.

"Cam made a couple of big saves at key times and he's done that for quite a while," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said.

Columbus hoped to be bolstered by the return from injury of forwards Matt Calvert, who missed four games, and the season debut of forward Boone Jenner, but were without defensemen Ryan Murray and Cody Goloubef to keep the number of players unable to play because of injury at eight.

The Blue Jackets instead needed a spark trailing 2-0 on goals by Boychuk and Nash in the first period and got one when Carolina center Victor Rask was called for hooking with two minutes left.

Foligno cut the deficit in half with 61 seconds remaining, taking a big rebound of a Ryan Johansen shot and burying the puck from the right circle before Ward could react.

Personal achievements weren't enough to keep Foligno from expressing displeasure at how the Blue Jackets are approaching games, especially the lack of scoring chances.

"We're on a six-game losing streak and there's no reason for it," he said. "Usually when you get out of a losing streak or get back on the winning ways you're crashing the net hard, you're getting ugly goals, whatever necessary to get the goals. We're not doing that. We're trying to make the extra play, trying to be too cute. It's disappointing because we're a team that feeds off the forecheck."

Don't bother asking Foligno about all the injuries either.

"I'm so tired of that excuse," he said. "It's gone. Six games in now. I'm tired of losing, tired of this Jekyll-and-Hyde hockey we're playing."

Faulk gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the second period with a shorthanded goal. He stole the puck from Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson along the wall in the Blue Jackets zone and skated away with Alexander Wennberg in pursuit but the Columbus forward couldn't prevent Faulk from shoveling a shot that hit McElhinney and flipped over the goalie for his first goal.

"We're rolling. The guys are playing well," Ward said. "We got off to a good start once again. We pushed the pace early on and put a lot of rubber on McElhinney. He kept them in the game to get a little bit closer at the end."

Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty left the game after a hit from Johnson with 13:02 remaining in the third period. He did not return.

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