RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Anton Babchuk already had one of his noted hard slap shots stopped by Brian Elliott. The Carolina defenseman wasn’t about to let the Ottawa rookie goalie get his pads on another one.
Babchuk scored a power-play goal with 6:01 remaining and the Hurricanes won their season-high fifth straight game, beating the Senators 2-1 on Wednesday night in a matchup of two of the NHL’s hottest teams.
“I had a couple good shots before that, but this (last) one went through him,” Babchuk said. “Just shoot it as hard as I can, try to hit the net. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes not.”
Rod Brind’Amour tied it for Carolina at 3:15 of the third and assisted on Babchuk’s winner to help the Hurricanes match a club record with their ninth straight victory at home, a mark set during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2005-06. The Hurricanes also moved a point behind fourth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference playoff chase,
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m proud that we’re playing in every game, and even though we’ve got some big wins, we seem to be able to let that go, come back and know we’ve got to win that next one. … Even though we’re in a situation where it looks good, ‘Oh, you’re in fourth or fifth or wherever you are,’ if other teams win those games, we’re really just barely hanging on.”
Ryan Shannon scored for the Senators, who were denied their season-high sixth straight win. They had won nine of 10 to move within nine points of the East’s eighth playoff spot, but fell to 12-19-4 on the road.
“In spurts, they pressured us, but I thought there were a few times we were able to maintain some pressure,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “The power play goal at the end was the difference.”
Babchuk’s winner came 1:29 into Carolina’s third power play of the night. He took a feed from Joni Pitkanen near the back of the right circle and unloaded a blast that beat Elliott for his 13th goal and fourth in five games. The hard-shooting defenseman has scored two of his three game-winning goals in his last five games.
“He’s got an unbelievable shot. He’s got to use it,” teammate Tuomo Ruutu said. “When he uses it, it’s a lot of damage. It’s so hard, and it’s been accurate lately as well.”
Elliott, who took a bid for his first shutout into the third, stopped 28 shots for the Senators before he was pulled with about 1 1/2 minutes left for an extra attacker. Cam Ward, who made his 23rd straight start, finished with 21 saves for Carolina.
Shannon finally beat Ward and broke a scoreless tie just over a minute into the third. Nick Foligno scooped up the puck behind the net and tried to wrap it around and past Ward, but it slipped past Babchuk and to Shannon, who tapped it in from point-blank range for his sixth goal.
“I kind of lost it a little bit. … A bad bounce,” Babchuk said. “But we stuck with our plan, continued to push and scored two goals.”
Brind’Amour started Carolina’s comeback about 2 minutes later in a 4-on-4 situation, snapping the rebound of Ray Whitney’s shot from the high slot past Elliott. Of his 14 goals, six have come in the last 10 games—by far the best stretch of the season for the Hurricanes’ 38-year-old captain.
That quick start to the third was in stark contrast to the way this one was played during the first two periods—when there were few shots, fewer penalties and only an occasional quality scoring chance.
“We just didn’t seem real sharp tonight,” Clouston said. “Neither team was dominant. It was kind of like a chess match.”
The teams combined for three penalties through 40 minutes, and Carolina thought it claimed a 1-0 lead roughly 5 minutes in when the rebound of Babchuk’s blast clicked off Jussi Jokinen’s skate and past Elliott. But a review showed that he instead kicked the puck.
The Hurricanes’ next-best scoring opportunity didn’t come the opening seconds of the third, when Eric Staal rang the post with a wrist shot about 45 seconds before Shannon’s goal.
“Before, when we were down 1-0 or it was a (scoreless) game going into the third, we’d start forcing things. We’d try to make plays that are not there,” Ruutu said. “They’re going to get turnovers from those, and we stayed within the system. We expected we’d get a couple of scoring chances—usually, we do— and we were lucky enough to score from those.”
This was the second game of a six-game road swing for Ottawa. … Whitney’s assist was the 500th of his career. … Foligno has assists in three straight games. … Carolina C Matt Cullen (foot) missed his second straight game. The next game he skates will be the 800th of his career. … Ottawa D Brian Lee was a late scratch with an upper-body injury. RW Shean Donovan, scheduled to be a healthy scratch, wound up playing.