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Peters helps Hurricanes hand Avalanche 1st road loss

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For someone who wasn't expected to be in the Carolina Hurricanes lineup this season, goaltender Justin Peters has done his part to become a difference-maker.

Peters, who has played in nine straight games after injuries to Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, made several impressive saves among his 33 stops to help Carolina hold on for a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

After replacing Ward in a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 24, Peters was saddled with the first of five straight Carolina losses. Since then, the Hurricanes have gone 3-0-1, thanks in large part to Peters. After topping out with a 3.49 goals-against average, Peters has lowered that mark to 2.34 and raised his save percentage to .922.

"He started off a little rough and he stuck with it," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "I think that's a tribute to him for his mental toughness. He's turned the corner and shown that he can win now. That's all from a real hard compete level, and I think the players really want to play for him. Everyone's real happy to see him progress and win hockey games."

Peters did it Tuesday with a variety of techniques. He stopped PA Parenteau cruising down the slot, then relied on quick reflexes to stone Paul Stastny on a goalmouth scramble. Peters stopped blasts from the middle, short-side bids, a little of everything.

"They were coming fast and coming hard," said Peters, a 27-year-old who has seen NHL action with Carolina in five straight seasons. "We talked before the game about wanting to protect the house, and we did that. The [defensemen] were clearing up rebounds and the forwards were right back in the house helping out too."

The Hurricanes gave themselves a fighting chance against the Avalanche (14-3-0) by claiming an early lead. Carolina started the scoring with Jordan Staal's third goal of the season. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped Nathan Gerbe from close range but kicked the rebound to Staal, who shoveled a backhander into the net at 12:47. Patrick Dwyer earned an assist with a strong forecheck.

"There's a few pretty ones out there, but mine aren't usually too pretty," said Staal, who has three goals. "Gerbe's a shooter at heart and he did a great job of putting it on net and I was fortunate to bury it."

Carolina needed 26 seconds in the second period to strike again. Gerbe collected a puck along the left-wing boards and sent a pass to Dwyer in the slot for his first of the season.

The Avalanche got on the board shortly after the first minor penalty of the game. With Hurricanes forward Radek Dvorak off for hooking, Stastny tapped in a loose puck that came to rest on the goal line at 14:34, following Nathan MacKinnon's shot from the slot.

But the Carolina defense stuck to its game plan to clamp down after that.

"The best way to play against speed like that is don't let them have the puck," Dwyer said. "And when they do, don't let them get moving."

Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey, who logged a team-high 23:50 of ice time, explained it similarly.

"We just tried to slow them down on their half of the ice by staying real close to them and not getting much speed, and it was successful," he said. "We were up to the challenge. It was a really good game."

The Avalanche played well for long stretches too. Nathan MacKinnon logged nine shots and 16 attempts. Colorado attempted 72 shots but lost on the road for the first time (6-1-0).

"I have to give it to Carolina, they played really well at the start of the game," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "I would say that the second half of the game was ours. We just didn't execute around the net, and that was the only thing that was missing because I thought we had a lot of chances."

Once 4-7-3, the Hurricanes have used the first four games of this five-game homestand to raise their record to 7-7-4. Had they not put a stop to their five-game losing streak, the atmosphere in the dressing room would be very different.

"We're on a 3-0-1 stretch after a bad stretch," Hainsey said. "This was a situation where, if we didn't put some wins together, we'd find ourselves 20 games in and in a little bit of trouble. It's been important."

As an added bonus, Carolina kept the ball rolling against a team that has everybody's attention.

"Colorado is playing good hockey, but it was going to take everybody playing a complete game in order to beat that club," Muller said. "I thought everybody was up to the task and we played hard. We earned the win tonight."

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