RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes had just completed a satisfying team win, 6-3 against the New Jersey Devils, their fifth in the past six games.
Afterward, in the midst of it all was Chris Terry, quietly reminding everyone there are moments within a season that last a lifetime.
After 235 games in the American Hockey League, the 23-year-old forward not only earned his first NHL callup, but he found the back of the net for Carolina's fourth goal.
Surrounded by the media after the game, he was happy yet humble, like so many players who have scored a first goal in the League -- and not sure how to react to it all.
"It's kind of a blur to me, the score," Terry said. "I didn't really know what to do. It was definitely an exciting moment."
Exciting not only for Terry, but for the crowd at PNC Arena. When defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti's shot was deflected, the puck squirted free to Terry in front of the New Jersey net. He drew the puck from his forehand to the backhand and slipped it under goaltender Johan Hedberg. The crowd erupted at the announcement of his first NHL goal.
"It was a bouncing puck, and I knew [Hedberg] was down," Terry said. "I was just trying to make the move. After that, I don't really know where it went in. I just remember standing there watching it trickle across the red line."
If that first goal feels especially sweet for Terry, it's understandable. Over the past three-and-a-half seasons, the Hurricanes have auditioned an endless procession of forwards from the AHL, leaving Terry to pile up 88 goals for Hurricanes affiliates in Albany then Charlotte. A fifth-round draft pick in 2007, he waited his turn.
"Obviously, I wanted to be the guy called up," he said. "I'd seen my teammates called up. All I could do was stick with it and remain positive. I got my chance tonight, and it was a great opportunity."
Making matters better, he enjoyed his moment in the midst of a big win. Eleven players hit the score sheet, including Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin, each with three points.
Semin started the scoring in the first period when Joe Corvo found him alone in front of the net at 12:16. Defenseman Jay Harrison swept into the slot to pop in a rebound 28 seconds later, giving the Hurricanes an early cushion.
New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk sprang free for a shorthanded breakaway goal before the end of the first period, but Carolina owned the second. The Hurricanes pushed the lead back to two when goaltender Dan Ellis made a long pass to the Devils blue line, where Semin quickly found Tlusty for a goal at the far post.
"I feel comfortable playing the puck," Ellis said. "I just saw that they were going for a change and I saw Semin up there, and who better to put the puck on his stick? He's been one of our best players all year. He made a pass across that continued our offensive push."
Ellis was sharp, stopping 31 shots for his fourth win of the season. He needed IV fluids between periods, the after-effects of an illness that kept him out of the lineup for the past week. He was a thorn in the side of Ryan Carter all night, stopping the Devils forward on three tough shots, including a third-period save when Ellis sprawled to get a glove on a would-be tap-in.
The Devils managed a pair of goals early in the third period to cut Carolina's lead to 5-3, one from Kovalchuk that deflected off the skate of Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk, the other on a deft redirect by Patrik Elias.
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller called a timeout, urging his team to pick up its tempo.
"After that we calmed down and got playing again," Muller said, noting that he liked the team's overall game. "We were able to use four lines and six D, which is great."
The Hurricanes found little to quibble about with the Devils' third-period goals. The 5-1 lead made those flaws easy to live with.
"We were able to capitalize early and give ourselves enough of a cushion so we could handle something like that in the third," Ellis said. "It's always going to loosen you up a little bit, loosen up the hands of the forwards and give us better gaps and allow us to play with more speed and play a better team game."
The Devils have gone 1-6-1 over their past eight, falling to 11-9-5. After an 8-3-1 start to the season, the current rough patch hasn't ruined New Jersey's aspirations.
"I don't think our 5-on-5 play is that bad," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "I mean, we're not scoring, but every mistake we make is magnified because they're going in. You can over-analyze it all you want, but that's the truth."
There was no over-thinking going on in the Carolina locker room. Most of the talk was about the simple joy of a call-ups' first goal -- and the hope for more wondrous occasions for a kid experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
"That's a [goal-scorer's] goal," Muller said."The way that he scored, that's the hands that he has,the knack that he has. I'm very happy with his game and thought he put in a great effort tonight for his first one to be a memorable one."
As the players filtered out of the locker room, Terry posed with his puck for a photographer -- a bit reluctantly, not wanting to call attention to himself. But this was one time when it was best to capture the moment. Having stepped up from the minors, capturing the memory -- especially after a win --seemed like the right thing to do.
"Each year I've tried to work on something different (in Charlotte) while still maintaining good numbers and being a leader down there," Terry said. "I was just trying to put it all together and be that call-up."