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Ward's late save helps Hurricanes beat Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Spectacular goaltending from Cam Ward down the stretch preserved the Carolina Hurricanes' 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday at Prudential Center.

Justin Faulk, Tuomo Ruutu, Ron Hainsey and Patrick Dwyer scored in the first two periods, and Ward made 19 saves for the Hurricanes (10-10-5), who earned their second straight win.

Ward, in his fourth start (2-1-1) since returning from a lower-body injury Nov. 18, made his finest block at 17:37 of the third period with his team holding a 4-2 lead. The Devils were skating with an extra attacker when Adam Henrique got free, but Ward sprawled to his left and snared the attempt with his glove. All Henrique could do was look to the rafters in disbelief.

"It was a mad scramble in front of the net, and with them having the extra attacker, it's hard to play the numbers, and their guy got alone and fortunately I made the glove save," Ward said. "It was funny to see the reaction because I think everyone thought it went in, and quietly inside I knew it was in my glove."

Devils forward Jaromir Jagr predicted the save will make every major sports show across the country.

"That goalie is probably going to have saves in the top 10 on 'SportsCenter,' and that's never happened before," Jagr said. "He was in a zone."

Ward said, "I was trying to catch the puck, so I had my eyes on it. I was just on my back so it was very difficult for me to get up, so it was desperation. He gave me a chance by trying to put it in the middle of the net and my glove was there."

The Devils got within 4-3, nonetheless, when Jagr knocked in a rebound at 18:13. They pulled goalie Martin Brodeur with 1:33 remaining but couldn't generate a quality scoring chance the remainder of the game.

The goal was No. 691 of Jagr's career, which moved him past former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux for ninth place on the NHL's all-time list.

Jagr is one goal behind Steve Yzerman (692) for eighth place and three behind Mark Messier (694) for seventh. The 41-year-old has 1,707 points, 16 behind Lemieux for seventh place on the scoring list.

"That's great," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said of Jagr. "He's been a bright spot all year and has received personal records and accolades, but I know he's more concerned about the wins. It's a great accomplishment for a great player and a great guy."

The Hurricanes and Devils complete their home-and-home Friday at PNC Arena. The Devils (9-11-5) have lost three straight after impressive victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. They have scored seven goals in the past four games (1-3-0), providing little margin for error to goalies Brodeur or Cory Schneider.

The Devils are 2-9-1 when allowing the first goal.

"Despite things getting interesting late in the game, I thought our game was very sound again like it was against Ottawa [in a 4-1 win on Sunday]," Ward said. "We know these are big divisional opponents that are important points in our division."

Despite two strong performances, Ward acknowledged he isn't yet thinking of gaining a roster spot for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I'm taking it one game at a time; obviously I'd love to be there representing Canada, but I'm trying to get the wins for the Hurricanes," he said. "As cliché as it sounds, I'm just taking it one game at a time."

Dwyer scored the game-winner with his second shorthanded goal of the season 15:43 into the second period to give the Hurricanes a 4-1 lead. After blocking a dump attempt by defenseman Andy Greene at the Carolina blue line, Dwyer skated hard down his right wing before cutting into the slot and depositing his fourth of the season between the pads of Brodeur.

"[Greene] didn't get the wood on it, and I just went up the wall and raced down, and sometimes those situations are better because you can't really think about where you're going to be," Dwyer said. "I was just trying to beat that other D-man to the net, and I think your instincts take over and you make the move."

Brodeur has been in net for the Devils' three recent losses, yielding nine goals. Schneider, who expressed his desire to return to goal after not playing since beating the Kings on Nov. 21 with 34 saves, might get that chance Friday. He is 1-1-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average against Carolina.

Greene pared the deficit to 4-2 on a slap shot from the point that beat Ward over his glove at 8:30 of the third period.

"We were in their zone for [long stretches], and when down 4-1, we believed we could come back and almost did," Jagr said. "They were blocking all night long. We just have to find a way to get through that, just like they did. They don't hold the puck … their defensemen shoot right away. You don't always have to shoot to score, but just shoot to get it on net. They scored three goals [from Faulk, Ruutu and Hainsey] like that."

The Hurricanes took a 3-1 lead in the second period when defenseman Hainsey's shot from the left point deflected off the stick of Patrik Elias in the slot and went past past Brodeur at 8:18. Jagr almost scored at 10:33 when his shot from the left circle rang off the right post past Ward.

The Devils got on the scoreboard by taking advantage of an ill-advised line change by the Hurricanes. Travis Zajac took a pass from Dainius Zubrus and broke in 2-on-1 with Jagr before snapping a shot from the left circle that beat Ward through the five hole at 4:21. Zajac used his linemate at a decoy before scoring his fourth of the season.

Carolina took a 2-0 lead 1:50 into the second when Ruutu received a marvelous backhand feed from Eric Staal at the left hash before drilling a one-timer that beat Brodeur to the long side. Staal is on a season-long seven-game point streak, during which he has three goals and six assists.

The Hurricanes opened a 1-0 lead 6:44 into the first period when Faulk's wrist shot from the right point beat Brodeur inside the short-side post. The goal was Faulk's first this season and the first of his career against the Devils.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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