RALEIGH, N.C. — The Hurricanes got their first win of the year Wednesday night, defeating the Boston Bruins by the score of 3-2. Joni Pitkanen, Anthony Stewart and Jiri Tlusty scored for Carolina.
Both teams had struggled out of the gate entering Wednesday’s contest, with the Bruins and Canes beginning the season with 1-2 and 0-2-1 records, respectively. Failing to win in any of their first three games, Carolina was presented with the opportunity to right the ship on national television, and who better to do so against than the defending Stanley Cup Champions?
“I think it’s in everyone’s mind that (the Bruins) won the Cup,” said Tim Gleason. “We came prepared and came away with two points.”
“You look at them and they have almost the same team as last year. You always try to beat those best teams,” said Tlusty. “They played really well, but I think we out-worked them today.”
After a scoreless opening frame, Carolina drew first blood less than a minute into the second period when Joni Pitkanen beat Tim Thomas on the power-play. Going up against his former team, Thomas Kaberle assisted on the goal, giving him his first point as a member of the Hurricanes.
Anthony Stewart padded the lead by scoring his first goal of the season 3:42 into the second period, putting Carolina up 2-0.
“I picked the boys up,” said Stewart. “Any way to contribute, I’m happy to. We’re excited to get the win and carry it over to Buffalo.”
Tyler Seguin answered for the Bruins shortly after Stewart’s tally, but Jiri Tlusty potted what would become the game-winning goal 13:32 into the third period, bringing the majority of the 16,483 fans in attendance to their feet.
“Our line had pretty good chances, and we were saying that something has to go in, and eventually it went in,” said Tlusty. “We just stuck with the plan and it paid off for us. We worked hard today and we were doing those little things.”
While there is a lot to be happy about from Carolina’s perspective, they played a very undisciplined game, taking five penalties in the first 40 minutes; two of which were for too many men on the ice.
“We know we have to stay out of the penalty box,” said Maurice. “But you want your team playing hard enough that they will take penalties. They weren’t lazy, I’ll tell you that.”
Fortunately, the Canes penalty kill was up to the task, preventing the Bruins from scoring a goal on the man advantage.
“Our PK was tremendous. Probably the turning point in the game, really,” said Cam Ward. “(The Bruins) have some skill up front, and our guys collapsed really well in our own zone and came up with some great plays.”
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Wednesday’s game was the production from Carolina’s role players. It’s difficult to beat an opponent as good as Boston when the likes of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner are held pointless, but Pitkanen, Stewart and Tlusty carried the Hurricanes to a much needed victory by providing the offense their team needed.
“(Secondary scoring) is really important,” Maurice said. “Teams are going to key on our first two lines. If we get comfortable to have four lines to play, we’re going to be in every game.”
Another positive was the Canes defense, which put together their best game of the season as a unit on Wednesday. They disrupted passing lanes, cleared the puck well, and eliminated a high number of Boston’s second-chance opportunities. Ward had a solid night in goal, stopping 26 of 28 shots.
“I think we played with a lot of confidence,” Gleason said. “Tonight we put it all together from a defensive perspective and that has to continue.”
It’s unreasonable to say this early in the season that any game is a “must-win,” but the Canes were desperate for a victory on Wednesday. With a lot of games away from the RBC Center on the horizon, failing to win any of their first four games could have been backbreaking. Carolina now heads into the weekend with some momentum, giving fans reason to believe .
The Canes will embark on a four-game road trip, beginning in Buffalo on Friday.
For coverage of the Carolina Hurricanes from the press box and locker room, follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewhirsh