NEWARK, N.J. - Cam Ward had a smile from ear to ear Wednesday night as the question about his miraculous save in the final minutes of the third period left the reporter's mouth.
Was it luck? Was he trying to get his glove in position to rob Devils forward Adam Henrique with the game on the line? Or did Henrique happen to shoot it right into the big mitt?
"I was trying to catch the puck," Ward said following the Hurricanes' 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. "I had my eyes on it. I was just on my back and it was very difficult for me to get up. It was just a desperation save that he gave me a chance by trying to put it in the middle of the net and my glove was there."
Ward was strong over the first 40 minutes as the Hurricanes used three goals in the second period to extend their lead to 4-1. But the Devils received goals from defenseman Andy Greene and left wing Jaromir Jagr in the third period to turn a blowout into a nail-biter in the final minute.
The win was Carolina's second in a row, a much-needed stretch after dropping four straight.
"I think it's huge," said forward Patrick Dwyer, whose shorthanded breakaway goal late in the second period proved to be the winner. "Any time you can get rolling and get the confidence up and beat a team you're tied with in the standings and go into Thanksgiving on a high note, I think it's good for our confidence going into the holiday."
After winning three straight and five of six, the Devils head into the holiday on a three-game slide.
"Sure, you're concerned with any kind of losing streak," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got to find a way to get on the other side of that line again. We did for eight or 10 games there, and now we're finding a way to be on the wrong side of it. We've got to put an end to this quickly."
The Hurricanes jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal by defenseman Justin Faulk, his first of the season. He gathered a pass from left winger Jiri Tlusty near the blue line and wristed a lengthy shot that eluded goaltender Martin Brodeur at 6:44 of the first period.
The Hurricanes pulled away in the second period, scoring three goals on seven shots.
Just 1:50 into the second period, Ruutu's third goal of the season increased the Hurricanes' lead to 2-0. Center Eric Staal set up the play with a great pass from behind the net to a streaking Tlusty in the slot.
The Devils answered less than three minutes later when Zajac led a two-on-one rush with Jagr and snapped a shot through the legs of Ward to make it 2-1.
Hainsey restored the two-goal advantage less than four minutes later when his long slap shot deflected off the stick of Devils forward Patrik Elias and past Brodeur.
Dwyer's short-handed goal with 4:17 remaining in the second pushed the lead to 4-1. Greene coughed up the puck at the blue line, allowing Dwyer to skate in alone and beat Brodeur with a backhand shot through the legs.
The Devils made their push, but it was too little, too late against a Hurricanes team that made the most of its opportunities.
"I don't think we were pushing late; I thought we were pushing but they were scoring on their chances. We were in their zone for five minutes then they get a breakaway and score or one shot and they score. That was frustrating, but even when we were down 4-1, I thought we could come back and almost did."
These teams will go at it again Friday night in Raleigh, N.C., in the second half of their home-and-home series.
"It really sets the tone," Ward said. "To come in their building and walk away with two points is a huge positive. We know it's not going to be an easier in Raleigh."
NOTES: The Hurricanes were without RW Kevin Westgarth, who was serving the first game of a two-game suspension. ... The Devils made RW Damien Brunner a healthy scratch. Brunner, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract before the season, has zero points in his past 12 games. ... Devils G Cory Schneider served as the backup for third consecutive game, which didn't sit well with him following the morning skate. "I'm frustrated," he said. "I'm trying to work hard and do what I can, but I'd just like to see the ice a little bit more is all." ... Jagr's goal was the 691st of his career, moving him past former teammate Mario Lemieux for ninth on the all-time list.