RALEIGH — Justin Williams has been back for four games and the Carolina Hurricanes have won three of them. The winning goal in each one? You guessed it.
Williams buried his shootout attempt on Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko, and James Reimer stopped Vancouver captain Bo Horvat to seal it, giving the Hurricanes a 4-3 shootout win over the Canucks in front of 15,767 on Super Bowl Sunday at PNC Arena.
“He’s a pretty clutch guy,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Williams, who played a team-low 10:22 but again factored in the result.
While the 38-year-old winger helped decide the game, it was two of hockey’s best young players setting the stage.
With the game tied at 2 in the third period, Carolina’s second-year winger Andrei Svechnikov bull-rushed past Quinn Hughes — one of this season’s top rookies — and roofed a shot over Demko (29 saves) to give Carolina a 3-2 lead 5:23 into the third.
“He basically goes end to end, and I don’t know how many players can do it like that,” Brind’Amour said. “He was pushed outside and just cut right in hard. And, obviously, the finish. It’s special.”
Then last year’s Calder Trophy winner scored his second of the night.
Elias Pettersson’s bad angle shot hit James Reimer’s skate and went in at 9:06 of the third period.
“I don’t know if you’d say ‘take [his game] to another level, but he’s been playing well,” Canucks coach Travis Green said of Pettersson.
Pettersson also scored in the shootout, as did Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen.
The overall effort had Brind’Amour feeling better about his team after he was frustrated following Friday’s home loss to Vegas.
“That was a pretty solid 60-minute effort. … I thought we were pretty competitive throughout the whole game,” said Brind’Amour, whose team improved to 30-19-3 and reclaimed a wild card spot in the densely packed Eastern Conference playoff race.
Still, Carolina exited the opening 20 minutes down 1-0 after Pettersson benefitted from a bounce that ended up on his stick and into the open net just 4:25 into the game.
The Hurricanes, however, found their game in the in the second.
Defenseman Jake Gardiner rushed up the ice and fed the puck to Teravainen on the left wing. Teravainen’s pass to the slot was deflected, but Nino Niederreiter collected the puck, spun and backhanded it past Demko to tie the game 71 seconds into the middle frame.
“He played a good game tonight,” Brind’Amour said of the struggling Niederreiter, who was scratched Friday. “I thought he was solid, had a couple of looks. Nice to see him get one.”
Sebastian Aho then got his 26th goal of the season to give the Hurricanes the lead. Svechnikov set up Jaccob Slavin for a one-timer that was blocked in the slot, but Aho quickly shot the puck into the net for a 2-1 lead at 5:06.
The Canucks managed to tie the game at 14:12 of the middle frame when defenseman Tyler Myers jumped into the play and scored past Reimer (32 saves).
“I thought the second period, really, we got going,” Brind’Amour said. “Even though we didn’t get ahead coming out of the period, it just felt like, ‘OK, there’s our game.’”
The Hurricanes now embark on a four-game road trip that will help shape what the team does ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
“We just played the game the right way, and usually good things happen when you do that,” Reimer said.
Notes: Brett Pesce left the game in the second period after he was hit by a shot and fell to the ice. Pesce rushed to the locker room, leaving a pool and trail of blood behind him, but returned to the game during the third period after receiving stitches. … The Hurricanes were called for four penalties to Vancouver’s one. … Warren Foegele had two primary assists. … Trevor van Riemsdyk played a season-high 20:32. His previous high this season was 17:56, in Friday’s game against Vegas.