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Rask, Faulk, Ward help Hurricanes top Avalanche

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes owe their recent improvement to a lot of little things: better net-front presence, improving special teams, keeping the opposition away from the slot.

Their reward is a three-game winning streak.

Victor Rask and Justin Faulk scored in the second period to help the Hurricanes defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at PNC Arena on Friday.

"We're getting closer," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "We're getting some traction and a little bit of confidence. We've got both goaltenders going and I think we're going in the right direction for sure."

One night after completing a seven-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Islanders, the Hurricanes (5-6-0) had enough energy to outlast the Avalanche, who were coming off a 2-1 road win Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Avalanche (3-6-1) opened the scoring at 6:49 of the second period on Alex Tanguay's second goal of the season. Nathan MacKinnon's shot from the high slot deflected off Mikhail Grigorenko onto the stick of Tanguay at the top of the crease for a tap-in.

"I thought we had it under control at 1-0, almost halfway through the game, and then they scored those two goals," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We were playing against a team that played really well defensively tonight and didn't give us much."

Rask tied it 1-1 at 12:00. Kris Versteeg held the puck patiently before slipping a pass to Rask at the top of the crease for a redirect past goalie Semyon Varlamov. Versteeg, who had two assists, has shown a knack for playmaking recently, now with 11 games played for Carolina.

"It takes a little while," Versteeg said. "Sometimes on the new teams I've had, there's an adjustment period, and you've got to understand everyone's strengths and weaknesses and what you do best to help them."

Carolina took a 2-1 lead on Faulk's power-play goal at 14:54. His low drive through traffic eluded Varlamov as he squeezed his blocker to his body. All four of Faulk's goals have come with the man-advantage. Versteeg and Ryan Murphy each earned their second assist.

"That one I was just trying to get some good wood on it with some speed," Faulk said. "We had a good screen and good traffic. I don't know if [Varlamov] saw it."

Jeff Skinner made it 3-1 at 5:07 of the third period. He skated from behind the Colorado net into the right faceoff circle, where he sent a hard wrist shot inside the near post. Defenseman Brett Pesce, playing his fourth NHL game, had an assist for his first point, along with Riley Nash.

"I tried to back him off with a little bit of a fake and tried to get it through to the net," said Skinner, who ended a five-game point drought. "Nash did a great job getting in front of the goalie so he couldn't really see it."

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made 28 saves, but there were only a handful of tense moments. Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla got off a backhand near the crease with seven minutes remaining, but Ward saved it with his glove.

"If he can see pucks and it's shots from the outside, it's a lot easier for him," Faulk said. "If we can do our part controlling where the shots come from, he's more than capable of handling that and he's been doing a great job."

Carl Soderberg made it 3-2 with 32 seconds remaining on a rebound of Matt Duchene's shot from the right circle. It was Soderberg's first goal with the Avalanche.

Roy expressed frustration at Colorado's inability to score power-play goals on the road. Though the unit is scoring at 30 percent at home, the Avalanche are 1-for-19 on the road.

"If you want to win on the road, you need your special-teams unit to do a good job," Roy said. "Unfortunately, our power play hasn't played up to what it should be, even if they have a few shots on net."

The Hurricanes will try to sustain their momentum during a lengthy stretch of home games. They begin November with nine out of 10 games at PNC Arena.

"I'm looking forward to that," Ward said. "It's nice to see your wife and kids for a change. We can be really happy and satisfied with the way we played on the road and really look forward to playing at home."

Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm left the game early in the first period after getting his feet tangled with Nikita Zadorov. Lindholm went hard into the end boards and left the ice without putting pressure on his left leg. He returned at the start of the second period and skated two shifts before leaving the bench for the rest of the game.

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