This was the team Bill Peters imagined when he took his first NHL head coaching job with the Carolina Hurricanes. A team that flew around the ice and outworked its opponents on a nightly basis. A team that could stick with any squad, grit sometimes carrying the load when skill might lack.
That’s the team Peters saw Sunday night, when the Hurricanes beat the defending champion Los Angeles Kings 3-2. It was the second win of the weekend for the Hurricanes, and also the second win of their 10-game season.
There was plenty that was pleasing to Peters. His fourth line of Chris Terry, Victor Rask and Zach Boychuk netted two goals. Cam Ward turned in a second-straight spectacular performance, saving 30 of the 32 shots fired his way. The Hurricanes were — to be honest — the better team for the bulk majority of the night.
But it wasn’t those individual performances that Peters liked, or even how, dare we say, good Carolina looked. It was the means, rather than end.
“I liked the look for sure … I liked our effort and our intensity,” he said. “The game is fair. Let’s not kid ourselves, the game is fair. If you do good things consistently, you get rewarded. You have to earn your breaks. We did that this weekend, and we have to continue to do that.”
There’s not a riddle you have to solve to earn those breaks, Peters continued.
“Just play. Play hard each and every night,” he said. “It’s contagious. Believe me when I tell you, it’s contagious.”
The back-to-back wins on the weekend were rife with examples that Carolina was embracing this identity that Peters hoped to install. The coach mentioned by name Justin Faulk, who received stitches for a busted lip on Saturday and turned in a +2 performance on Sunday.
The Kings seized momentum over the back half of the third period, with Carolina having already played 100-plus minutes in fewer than 24 hours. Los Angeles cut a two-goal lead to one with 7:58 to go, and they knocked on the door again with a power play in the waning minutes of the game. The Hurricanes scrambled together, though, working with Ward to somehow, someway keep the scoreline intact.
It took 10 games, but Carolina found its winning formula. And it’s quite simple, too. The harder the Hurricanes worked, the better they played and the more confidence they gained.
And, as Peters said, “confidence is a funny thing.” It’s what led Elias Lindholm to rifle the game-winning shot just over Jonathan Quick’s shoulder, scoring his third goal of the weekend and season. It’s what gave Ward the extra bit of quickness he needed to swallow rebounds and shut down an attacking Kings team. It’s what makes the Hurricanes believe this weekend wasn’t just an exception, that they can turn this thing around with season to spare.
The Hurricanes were headed for a historically bad year, or so it seemed. But Sunday, they were confident. They were relentless. They were good.
Oh, and hard work? It’s not the only thing that spreads within a team.
“Winning is contagious,” said Terry, who had a goal and an assist. “We got a taste (Saturday) night, and it’s fun when you win. It makes it a lot better moving around the locker room, and I think that carried over to this game.”