Zach Boychuk scored his first NHL goal against the game’s all-time victories leader in Martin Brodeur and Justin Peters stopped 23 shots as the Canes won their sixth straight at home and fifth in a row overall, beating the New Jersey Devils 5-2 heading into the two-week Olympic break.
Carolina improved to 5-0 with Cam Ward on the shelf with back problems. And it wasn’t just the youngsters who provided the spark as 37-year-old Ray Whitney scored two power-play goals a minute apart early in the second en route to the victory, giving Carolina nine wins in its last 11 games as the Hurricanes inch toward that elusive .500 mark.
“This is quite a bit different looking team than it was at the start of the year, we’ve got different bodies, different players, and (Brandon) Sutter has made a huge difference, so we’re going to keep working hard and having fun,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“The odds for us were a lot bigger two weeks ago, so now we’re in the hunt and we’ve got a chance,” said Sutter, who had an assist and played 19:28.
Whitney and Jussi Jokinen each finished with two goals and an assist, Jokinen scoring an empty-netter to seal it after the Devils had closed to 4-2 with a late power-play goal.
Carolina’s home winning streak has been high-scoring and impressive, including lopsided wins over division leaders Chicago and New Jersey as the Canes have outscored opponents 26-10 in the last six at the RBC Center.
The Canes win was even punctuated by the early departure of Martin Brodeur, who was yanked early in the third period after Carolina’s fourth goal.
“You don’t see that too often so I don’t know if he’ll be shaken during the Olympics or not,” Jokinen said of the Canadian team goalie.
The Canes spent most of the opening period killing off three penalties and watching what appeared to be a Jokinen goal waved off by officials who felt Brodeur had the rubber covered.
It was a quick whistle, but Carolina shook off the adversity and struck first with 3:13 left in the period as Boychuk poked in a rebound between a maze of players, getting his first-ever goal against one of the game’s best-ever goalies.
“It feels really good, especially to do it on a world-class, Hall of Fame goalie like that,” said the 20-year-old Boychuk, who has been called up from the minors five times this season and scored his first goal 12 games into his career. “I was joking around with a few of the guys before the game, saying I haven’t gotten my first goal yet so I’m going to save it for Marty. It’s funny that it worked out that way and I finally got the monkey off my back.”
Jokinen extended his point streak to nine straight with an assist on Carolina’s third goal, a score in which Tim Gleason’s shot hit the post and fell behind Brodeur, who couldn’t cover before Whitney came racing in to bang it home.
Whitney’s first goal came on a bang-bang play from Staal at the tail end of a 5-on-3 as the Devils, who have been called for the third fewest penalties in the league, became undisciplined trying to keep pace with the fast-moving Canes.
Carolina put the game out of reach 3:27 into the third when Whitney made a nice move along the boards to free himself for a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Jokinen, who rifled it past Brodeur. Seventeen seconds later, Brodeur exited to a Bronx cheer from the Caniacs.
“I don’t think any of our goals were flukes,” Maurice said when asked if he had ever seen Broduer yanked in a game.
Meanwhile, Peters is now 2-0 in his first two NHL starts and will return to Albany to stay sharp during the two-week break.
“The guys were blocking shots during those power plays, jumping on the loose pucks,” Peters said. “It seemed like every loose puck we got down the ice. That was a pretty important point of the game.”
NOTES: Jokinen has eight goals and four assists during his point streak. … Brett Caron’s assist on the first Carolina goal was his first point in 11 games. … With Matt Cullen now traded, Carson saw some point time on the power play’s second unit while Boychuk was on a line with Tuomo Ruutu and Brandon Sutter. … Staal had two assists, but lost 16 of 18 faceoffs and misfired on two breakaways. … There will be quite a race for the Carolina scoring title over the final 21 games with Staal (50), Jokinen (49) and Whitney (48) all within two points of each other. … Whitney extended his point streak to five straight.