RALEIGH, N.C. -- With 867 NHL games under his belt, Carolina Hurricanes forward Manny Malhotra didn't need a game-winning, overtime goal to validate his career. But three games into the resumption of his days playing in the NHL, it's certainly a nice reminder that he can still contribute some goals.
"I'd be lying if I said it's not nice to score goals," Malhotra said with a grin after his breakaway backhander finished off the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. "Scoring is icing on the cake, but I'm trying to do those little things that make the team successful: blocking shots, managing the puck properly, winning draws. We all did a good job of that [Tuesday]."
Indeed, it took more than Malhotra's late heroics. The two teams played 56-plus minutes of scoreless hockey before Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell tipped in Kimmo Timonen's power-play shot from the point.
Then, with 53 seconds left, Jordan Staal rescued the Hurricanes, firing the puck past Flyers goalie Steve Mason from the top of the crease after taking a pass from his brother Eric. It was Jordan Staal's second goal of the season.
The Hurricanes (5-7-3) also needed the steady hand of goaltender Justin Peters, who stopped 28 shots for his first win of the season. If anyone needed a little validation, it was Peters. Pressed into action after injuries to Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, Peters took all the losses during Carolina's five-game losing streak, despite playing well in most of the games.
"I felt comfortable," Peters said. "The way we played as a unit, that's the identity we want to have every night. We had it right from the drop of the puck. There's a lot of resistance in this room. We were down and out, so it's pretty special [to rally for the win]."
Peters has bounced between the Hurricanes and the American Hockey League for five straight seasons, often playing under adverse conditions. Winning Tuesday night caught the attention of Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller, who had previously noted that Peters did not make the timely saves in a 5-1 loss against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
"He needed that win. Let's be honest," Muller said. "At times he was playing well, but the end result was he didn't win. It grows on you. No one has to be the guy that makes the difference right now in the situation we're in.
"We have to come out of this together and everyone has to do their job. He did his job tonight. He made the saves at the right time. Hey, he found a way to win the hockey game [Tuesday night]. That's what we needed."
Jordan Staal's goal was equally important on an individual level. With three points through the first 14 games, he was not producing on the offensive end as Carolina had expected of him. Making the tying goal more special was the fact that his brother Eric set it up from behind the net. Because the two have not played together much, the goal left a lasting impression.
"I don't think we've connected for one yet, so it was a pretty special moment when we're looking at each other's eyes after a big goal," Jordan said. "It was a pretty cool moment."
If Staal has his way, it might signal an offensive breakthrough.
"It was just a reaction play," he said. "I was trying to get it off as quick as I can. I think [Mason] got a piece of it too. It was nice to finally get one again behind the goalie and hopefully for myself I can keep that going, and for the team as well."
That goal set up Malhotra's moment. Sidelined since being placed on injured reserve by the Vancouver Canucks early in the 2012-13 season, Malhotra played eight games with the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers at the start of the season, hoping to put his 2011 eye injury behind him. Three games after signing an NHL contract with the Hurricanes, he's proven something to himself.
"As a player, to have the confidence of the coach means a lot," Malhotra said. "To be put out there in that situation means a lot to me. Just being given the chance to be back here, I want to prove people right. I'm grateful for that chance."
The goal was a back-breaker for the Flyers (4-9-1), who have scored just 22 goals in 14 games.
"Yeah, it's upsetting," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Coverage was there (on the tying goal). Everything was fine. We've got to make sure we stay with our man, and we didn't, and they ended up tying it. Turnover in overtime and a breakaway; it can't happen."
Mason made 36 saves for the Flyers. His record fell to 3-7-1.
Malhotra has never been a big-time scorer, with just 109 goals over parts of 17 seasons. He certainly looked the part of an all-round player on the game-winner. He stood up Philadelphia defenseman Mark Streit at the Flyers offensive blue line, causing a turnover. Then he took a pass from Ron Hainsey and put the finishing touches on the win.
"I think I was just feeling the pressure of their D chasing me down," he said. "I just wanted to make sure I got a shot. I felt the pressure from the left side, so I got a quick shot off from the backhand and it surprised (Mason)."
Asked if he might savor this one, just knowing how difficult it was to get back to the NHL, he allowed for a little personal satisfaction.
"Absolutely," he said. "But come midnight, it's over. Come (Wednesday) morning, it's a new day. We've got to build and leave this one in the past."
Both teams came into the game hard-pressed for offense. The Flyers were 29th in the NHL in goals per game at 1.62, while the Hurricanes were connecting for 1.93, good for 26th.
The Hurricanes activated forward Radek Dvorak from injured-reserve list Tuesday. The right wing had missed three games with a lower-body injury.
The Flyers have now come away with at least one point in 24 of 27 games (20-3-4) against Carolina.