NEWARK, N.J. -- The Carolina Hurricanes were completing their longest road trip of the compacted NHL schedule Tuesday night at the Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils, a six-game stretch away from Raleigh.
"We knew that this was going to be the toughest challenge, because they're a good team and they've been playing very well," said Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller, who began his NHL career with the Devils in 1984.
The Devils had a five-game win streak on the line and an 11-game unbeaten streak at home dating back to last season. The road weary Hurricanes had to find something to get them through one final road game before heading back home.
Jiri Tlusty scored two third period goals, one on a power-play and the other an empty netter, and Cam Ward was brilliant, making 26 saves, leading the Hurricanes to a huge 4-2 win over the Devils.
"Any time you can come here and win, it's a huge character test," Muller said. "We're finding ways to win. It may not be pretty, but we're coming together as a team and the chemistry is building every game. There were no easy nights on this trip, no matter where we went. I'm proud of our guys, the way they hung in. I don't know if we would have won this game last year. We're learning how to win and staying with the game plan. It's a domino effect."
Tlusty broke a 2-2 tie at the 7:25 mark of the third period with a power-play goal that gave the Hurricanes (7-4-1) the lead for good.
"We always want to go hard in the third period," Tlusty said. "We address that every game. We came at them at the right time. We're all playing together as a team. We won four of six on the road trip and got nine points. That's amazing. We just came at them hard in the third period and didn't slow down. It was a good night for us. We just kept it going."
Tlusty then put a capper on the successful road swing with an empty net goal with just 33.6 seconds left.
The win enabled the Hurricanes to remain unbeaten in their last five games (4-0-1) and improved to 7-4-1 overall. The loss was the first home setback for the Devils (8-2-3).
Jussi Jokinen scored his first goal of the season early in the second period, after Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Devils a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
Patrick Dwyer snapped a 1-1 tie with his fourth goal of the season on a deflection, then Ryan Carter made a great play to steal and score to tie the game once again at 2-2 just 1:34 into the third period.
It set up Tlusty's heroics, scoring his fourth of the season after Mark Fayne was whistled for interference.
Ward stopped 26 shots in goal to gain his fifth victory of the season.
"We were really happy with the way we played the first two periods," Ward said. "We weren't going to give up and after they tied it, we came back flying. We stuck with the game plan. We're all excited now to go home, winning two games against two tough opponents back-to-back. This is a tough building to play in. We were fortunate to get the two late goals."
The Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders, 6-4, on Monday, with Tlusty scoring two goals and adding two assists. Tlusty also had a goal in the overtime loss to Philadelphia Saturday.
Martin Brodeur made 21 saves in goal for New Jersey.
"They played extremely well," Brodeur said. "Their energy was amazing, playing back-to-back. They're a good hockey team. They showed us a lot. The last two goals, I had a shot and didn't make the saves. That's just part of the game."
Getting outplayed through the first two periods, the Devils put the pressure on the Hurricanes from the third period faceoff. Carter made a great steal in front of the goal and backhanded his shot past Ward for the game tying goal just 1:34 into the final period.
But the Hurricanes stayed focus and got the tie-breaking goal from Tlusty off a fine pass from Eric Staal at the 7:25 mark of the third period.
The Devils had a frantic attempt in the closing seconds, with Kovalchuk's shot trickling just wide of the goal, then Tlusty sealed things with his fifth goal of the season while Brodeur went to the bench to give the Devils an extra skater.
It was especially pleasing for Muller, who began his playing career with the Devils almost 20 years ago.
"It's still always special, not just for me, but for Johnny MacLean and Dave Lewis, my assistants," Muller said of his assistants, with MacLean serving as the club's head coach for the beginning of the 2010-11 season. "We all started here. When I got here, I was so young. I was 18 and it was like a college initiation. But it's always great to come back and win."
NOTES: Before the game, Devils coach Peter DeBoer was asked why his team was off to such an outstanding start. "We're finding ways to win," said DeBoer, whose team entered last night's game with a five-game win streak. "Not every game is a perfect 60-minute effort, but we've shown as a group the ability to fix things in games before it comes to hurt us. We found the things and corrected things and that has allowed us to win games." ... Before the game, DeBoer talked about the Devils' home unbeaten streak, which stood at six games (5-0-1) this year and stretched over 11 games (9-0-2) dating back to last season. "We definitely have a home ice advantage, thanks to our fans. I think there's been a positive carryover from last year and I think that's part of the reason why we're doing so well." ... DeBoer on team captain Bryce Salvador: "He's taken on the identity of the team with the way he plays. He personifies what we stand for. He's a guy who is all business. I couldn't ask for a better model that the guy who wears the 'C' on his sweater." ... The Hurricanes did not have a morning skate after having played on Long Island and defeating the Islanders 6-4 on Monday. ... Devils D Mark Fayne missed the morning skate due to a death in the family, but was in the starting lineup. ... The Devils were once again without Dainius Zubrus, who has an upper body injury. ... The Hurricanes lost top defenseman Joni Pitaknen to a lower body injury in the second period. He did not return to action.