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Khudobin, Hurricanes stay hot, defeat Avalanche

by Kurt Dusterberg /

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For most of the first half of the season, the story was the same for the Carolina Hurricanes: They couldn't win close games. Thirteen of Carolina's past 17 regulation losses were by one goal.

Slowly, that trend is beginning to change.

After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, Carolina used shootout goals from Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm to defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at PNC Arena on Tuesday. Goaltender Anton Khudobin made 28 saves.

The Hurricanes (14-24-5) are 4-1-1 in their past six games, including two one-goal victories in regulation.

"We've done a good job of keeping teams from getting really good chances, and now we're starting to create the offense too," said Carolina forward Jordan Staal, who scored his first goal of the season after missing three months with a broken leg. "Tonight was another night when there were a lot of good chances to score goals. If we keep playing like that, hopefully we get on a roll."

The Hurricanes pushed the first-period pace against the Avalanche (18-17-9), who were coming off a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday.

The Hurricanes dominated the period before Staal scored at 14:05. The play started when Ryan Murphy sent Staal streaking through center ice. He passed back to Murphy, who delivered a perfect setup from the right faceoff circle to Staal in the slot.

Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard made 44 saves, including 19 in the first period. He stopped Jay McClement on a shot and a rebound early in the period, then fought off Lindholm coming down the slot.

"Is it the fact that we played (Monday a reason for) the slow start?" Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I don't like to attribute it to that. We had so many turnovers and giveaways. We were not sharp at all. Carolina was skating well and seemed to be fresh. Sometimes it makes a big difference."

The Hurricanes pushed the lead to 2-0 early in the second period on Patrick Dwyer's fourth goal of the season. Brad Malone fed Dwyer, who made a move in the slot and used defenseman Nate Guenin as a screen to beat Pickard at 6:03.

Colorado chipped away at the lead 25 second into the third period. Forwards Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla worked the puck behind the net before Matt Duchene's shot near the right post fluttered over Khudobin's blocker.

Forward John Mitchell tied the game at 10:05 with an unassisted goal. After Carolina's defense collapsed to the slot, Mitchell sent a wrist shot under Khudobin.

"The guys did the right job," said Khudobin, who won his third straight after an 0-8-2 start. "I was supposed to have the shot and they were supposed to have the back door. I just pretty much fumbled in my own skates."

The Hurricanes' breakdowns in the third period caused some concern for coach Bill Peters, but he expected a late push from the Avalanche.

"We were definitely better, but to give up that early goal after a neutral zone faceoff win is disappointing," Peters said. "[Colorado] did a real good job of building the game, playing back-to-back. When they turn it up, they're a dangerous group."

Carolina had the best opportunity of the overtime when defenseman Justin Faulk's shot hit the left post. The Hurricanes countered with the two shootout goals, plus saves from Khudobin on Nathan MacKinnon and Duchene, who each hit a post in regulation.

The Hurricanes' improved play can be attributed in large part to strong play from Jordan Staal's line, playing alongside his brother Eric Staal and Lindolm. Eric has six goals in eight games, and Jordan has four points in eight games since his return.

"He's a hard worker and he makes both of our lives easier," Jordan Staal said. "We definitely feed off each other. We're finding ways to hold onto the [puck] in their end and waiting them out to find the perfect spot to go to the net."

The Avalanche will continue on a five-game road trip when they play the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Roy didn't express much disappointment, preferring to focus on the positive.

"I don't think I'm going to rewatch that game because I'm afraid we're going to lose our point," he said. "We managed to stay in the game. [Pickard] was phenomenal, especially in the first period, but he was really good all night."

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