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Ward makes 30 saves, Hurricanes defeat Oilers

by Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner scored in the second period, and Cam Ward made 30 saves to help the Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

After giving up a power-play goal in the first period, Carolina (8-10-4) slowly gained momentum and took control of the game.

"The last few games have been up and down," said Skinner, who has five goals. "Tonight, things all came together pretty smoothly."

Coach Todd McLellan was highly critical of the Oilers following the loss, their fifth in the past six games. Asked about the play of goaltender Anders Nilsson, he quickly turned his attention to the skaters

"Our goaltender was just fine," McLellan said. "He wasn't capable of getting up in the forecheck or establishing a net-front presence or backchecking like he's determined or winning a faceoff battle. He has to stay in the crease."

The Oilers (7-14-1) lost forward Nail Yakupov to an apparent lower-body injury at 2:22 of the second period. During a faceoff at center ice, he got his legs tangled with linesman Matt MacPherson, and each went down to the ice.

Yakupov did not put any weight on his left leg while being helped to the Oilers dressing room. McLellan had no update on his condition after the game.

Edmonton was sharp early, and Benoit Pouliot capitalized on the power play 7:34 into the game. Yakupov held in Ron Hainsey's clearing attempt before setting up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a wrist shot that caught a piece of Pouliot's stick in the slot.

It was Pouliot's 100th NHL goal and Yakupov's 100th assist in the League.

Carolina tied the game with 16 seconds remaining in the period when Jordan Staal attempted a short centering pass from behind the net. The puck deflected off the skate of Edmonton defenseman Griffin Reinhart and trickled through Nilsson.

"Those goals in the first and last minute, they're huge in our sport," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "Especially when we were down one. Now you go into the room, you feel better about yourself. It definitely gave us momentum."

The Hurricanes began to control the pace of play in the second period, and Lindholm's third goal put Carolina up 2-1 at 10:16. With Brett Pesce driving the net on a 2-on-1, Lindholm looked off Pesce from the left circle before firing a wrist shot between Nilsson's legs. John-Michael Liles and Eric Staal assisted.

"[Pesce] was wide open in the beginning," Lindholm said. "I haven't scored in a long time, so I just started to shoot at the far [post] and I saw it go in, so it's good."

Skinner made it 3-1 when he redirected Justin Faulk's pass from the high slot at 16:41. Faulk's pass hit Oilers defenseman Andrej Sekera before going in off Skinner's skate. With the assist, Faulk extended his point streak to seven games.

"Besides the goals, there were a lot more chances generated because of hard work," Skinner said. "We're doing it because we're spending a lot of time in the offensive zone. It was a fun game."

Andrej Nestrasil scored into an empty net from just inside the red line with 51 seconds left.

Ward, who made 23 saves in the second and third periods, has not lost in regulation over his past five starts (2-0-3).

"[The Oilers] have a lot of skill and a good transition game," Ward said. "They gain a lot of speed. We were able to clog it up a bit and make it an easier night for me."

McLellan praised the Oilers after three recent one-goal losses, including one in overtime, and a 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils last Friday. But he didn't mince his words evaluating their performance against Carolina.

"That's a really, really disappointing effort for our hockey club," he said. "We did take a lot of steps forward (recently). I was very proud of our group. I still believe in the group. (But) we weren't engaged physically. We were outworked. I don't care how big you are; I don't even care how skilled you are. It's the determination factor that I'm looking for, and I don't think we were very determined.

"[The Hurricanes] did a much better job playing collectively hard as a group, not giving us much, taking every inch of ice, playing over top of the puck. We had a lot of players who didn't want to do that."

The Oilers will play the second game of a four-game road trip Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes will play at the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

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