Ward set the franchise mark with his 131st career victory as the Carolina offense remained hot en route to a 5-1 victory over the reeling Boston Bruins.
Boston beat up the Canes 7-2 in the second game of the season as Carolina limped to a 5-17-2 start. But Sunday’s effort was a far cry from the Boston team we saw in early October as the Bruins have now lost eight of nine and left the RBC Center with the same feeling as last year’s playoff battles here.
Meanwhile, the Canes are 11-11-2 over their last 24 games and have scored four of more goals four times in the last two weeks to sneak past Edmonton and out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings.
“We’re competing hard and we’re playing well,” said Ray Whitney, whose two-point night gave him a team-leading 39 points. “The games to start the season – it was ugliness – and we would like to take those first two months back, but what can you do. But it is nice to see everyone playing as hard as they are now.”
Ward moved past Arturs Irbe on the all-time victory list, recording the record in 48 fewer games than the Latvian goalie who led Carolina to the 2002 Cup Finals. Ward lost an attempt at his first shutout of the season when Boston scored on the power play with 11:04 left.
“It’s pretty neat because I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this great organization for five years now and to play with some quality players,” said the 25-year-old Ward, who career record is 131-96-23. “You can’t do it by yourself. Every one of those wins the team had a big part of it. I hope to keep adding on to that list for many, many years.”
Carolina jumped in front of a slumping Boston squad 1-0 after the first period, then applied the knockout punch with three goals in a span of 6:36 to take a comfortable 4-0 lead into the final 20 minutes against a team it beat to reach last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
“We didn’t just score in the second - we made some absolutely fantastic plays,” Ward said.
The line of Eric Staal, Whitney and Jussi Jokinen continued their stellar play as Staal scored his fifth goal since being named captain four days ago, Jokinen registered his second three-point night in his last three games and Whitney had a highlight-reel assist on Carolina’s fourth goal.
Staal began the second-period offensive outburst when he scored on a delayed hooking penalty that Jokinen had drawn.
Soon after that penalty expired, Jokinen scored his 15th off one of those nifty cross-ice passes we’re grown accustomed to seeing from fellow countryman Joni Pitkanen.
“That’s what we’ve been doing since we were 13 or 14 years old,” Jokinen said of his chemistry with Pitkanen. “That gives us an advantage and has been getting us lots of big goals.”
Brandon Sutter made it 4-0 midway through the second, chasing United States Olympic goalie Tim Thomas, but it was Whitney’s elusive rush up the ice that brought the home crowd to its feet. Whitney beat a check by Milan Lucic and spun around all-world defenseman Zdeno Chara before flipping a pass past another Bruin defender to Sutter for his one-timer as the Canes were well on their way to snapping a six-game skid against the Bruins.
“He went around three guys and just fed it over to me,” said Sutter. “I’ll take credit for the goal but he did all the work.”
“That’s why we call No. 13 the Wizard,” added Ward. “He put on some magic on that goal. That should be on the Top 10 on ESPN, and it’s a good play if it’s on ESPN.”
Whitney was sheepish when asked about his tremendous moves that led to Carolina’s fourth goal.
“Those don’t happen very often,” Whitney said. “It happens so fast that nothing can be planned on the ice. I wasn’t expecting it to work to be honest with you. It always looks good to the fans, but coaches don’t like to see that too many times.”
Coach Paul Maurice joked about Whitney’s advantage on the play, with a 5-foot-8 player spinning around an All-Star defenseman who stands 6-foot-9.
“Boy that was something else,” Maurice said. “Ray’s very quick, isn’t he?”
Sutter assisted on Carolina’s fifth goal as he fed Chad LaRose in the slot just 15 seconds into the third.
Miscommunication by the Boston defense led to a turnover and Carolina’s first goal 7:50 in as Whitney picked up the mishandled puck after a short pass from Jokinen and beat a helpless Thomas for his team-leading 16th of the season.
NOTES: Whitney’s two-point night moved him past Sami Kapanen for fifth on the Carolina Hurricanes’ all-time points list at 315. … Jokinen has 19 points in his last 19 games, including three three-point games. … Carolina scored four goals on its first 15 shots. … Andrew Alberts had five of Carolina’s 25 blocked shots. … Staal and Whitney extended their point streaks to five straight games. … The Canes are 8-for-21 on the power play over their last five games. … Carolina is now 9-1-3 when Jokinen scores a goal.