The Carolina Hurricanes couldn't afford yet another season-opening loss. Some timely scoring from two role players helped deliver a much-needed victory.
Anthony Stewart and Jiri Tlusty scored in the third period to help Carolina beat the visiting Boston Bruins 3-2 on Wednesday night for their first victory.
Joni Pitkanen scored on the power play and Cam Ward made 26 saves for the Hurricanes, who never trailed and avoided matching their worst start since the lockout.
"We're talking about the fourth game of the year, but we did treat it like a must-win game," Ward said. "It's important that we get a win and feel good about ourselves and know what it's like to win hockey games. We can build from a game like tonight. There's a lot of great positives that you can take away from it."
Especially for Tlusty and Stewart, left wings on the Hurricanes' third and fourth lines.
"Teams are going to key on those two [top] offensive lines that we have," coach Paul Maurice said. "The big goal for me is Stewart's goal … confidence-wise for that line and for me wanting to put them on the ice in a tight game. They've had some offence there, and if we can get comfortable with four lines that can play, we're going to be able to play in these kinds of games."
Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand scored and Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots for the Bruins, who have lost two straight and three of four. Each loss has been decided by one goal.
"We're not that far off," Thomas said. "The difference between us having the results we want and the way it happened tonight, for example, isn't that far off."
The reigning Stanley Cup champions' power-play unit remained punchless. Boston came up empty on five chances with the man advantage to drop to 1 for 18 for the season.
"We can create some more chances and more scoring opportunities," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We just have to do the little things right, but most of all, we have to outwork the four guys on the other side."
The Bruins — who were held scoreless through two periods and were in danger of being shut out in consecutive games for the first time since 2009 — twice cut Carolina's lead to one in the third.
First, Seguin — who replaced the injured David Krejci at centre on Boston's No. 1 line — took a nice touch pass from Nathan Horton and whipped a shot past Ward with 15:53 left.
Tlusty followed with a goal that put Carolina up 3-1 with 6:28 left. Marchand took a feed from Patrice Bergeron in the circle and one-timed it past Ward with 3:25 remaining.
Ward was strong after that, turning aside a blast by Milan Lucic in the final minute to preserve the victory and help the Hurricanes avoid equaling their 0-3-1 start in 2006.
"Our confidence was, you could say, a little bit down," Stewart said. "But we kept with it."
Pitkanen put the Hurricanes up 42 seconds into the second and with 18 seconds left on a hooking minor to Chris Kelly. Pitkanen yo-yoed the puck in the left circle for several seconds — long enough that some fans were screaming for him to shoot it — before he whipped a shot that got past Thomas. His first goal of the season was just Carolina's third on the power play this season.
Stewart made it 2-0 with 16:18 left, when his shot went through traffic and past an obstructed Thomas, who said both shots were deflected.
"The first [goal] was going wide, and then it hits off a skate — that happens when you throw it back door from there," Thomas said. "If anything, we should start doing the same thing more often. It's going to go off the other team's skates. I'm not sure what it hit on the second one. It was just a confusing little shot."