It may have taken exactly 260 minutes, but in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime defeat of the Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes finally scored an even-strength goal, snapping their prolonged scoreless streak. Another, however, is still on-going.
With his 1-0 shutout of the New York Islanders Thursday night, Justin Peters has run his own even-strength scoreless stretch to 125:23, dating back to Derek Stepan’s hat-trick goal in the third period of last week’s 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers. After that one, Kirk Muller wasn’t pleased with his goaltender, saying they “weren’t able to get the saves at the right time”. After this one, the Canes’ coach had nothing but positives for Peters.
“He’s given us an opportunity to win these last two games,” said Muller. “We’d like to say we’ve got to score more than one or two goals, but there’s nights that you don’t have to. He’s given us the confidence that we can just go out and play our game, and play it the way we want to play it.”
It’s that confidence that’s allowed the Hurricanes to transform a lengthy losing streak into consecutive wins for only the second time all year. Peters was quick to credit the guys in front of him.
“Unbelievable,” he said of his team’s effort in clearing rebounds. “I was bouncing a few out there, that’s for sure. Some big blocks, great plays by the “D” and forwards coming back to help out. That’s nice. That helps a lot.”
Though he wasn’t tested often — stopping all 21 shots he faced — the chances that the Islanders did create were of high quality. Clinging to a one-goal lead near the end of the second period, a bad turnover by Jay Harrison at the blue-line led to a partial breakaway for Michael Grabner. Peters, his confidence growing with every save, made it look routine.
“Those big opportunities they had, he made them look easy,” said Jordan Staal. “It’s good to see ‘Petey’ get rewarded with the big shutout. He’s worked so hard. I’m glad we played well in front of him for him to get that.”
As of late, Peters has looked like a completely different goaltender. Rather than letting rebounds sit in high-scoring areas, he’s kicked them to the corner with regularity. He’s not ‘over-challenging’ as much, and his lateral quickness has improved markedly.
Even during the losing streak Peters was giving his team a chance to win. In three of their five losses, the ‘Canes carried a one-goal deficit into the third period and in none of those did they score in the final frame.
Despite their goals-per-game heading for a league-worst, the Hurricanes are winning again. And much of it can be attributed to be Peters and his desire to put the team on his shoulders.
“I want to be there for the guys,” he said. “I want to make the saves when I have to.”
While Cam Ward has begun off-ice workouts and Anton Khudobin lightly skated Wednesday, it may still be weeks before either goaltender is up to full-speed. But if Peters continues his recent stretch of strong play, there will be little need to rush.
“I feel confident, and I feel really confident in this team. I feel really confident in the trust we have in each other and I feel that’s been building for awhile now. It’s nice for the guys to get rewarded for the hard work they’re doing and the trust we have in each other.”