Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 10/28/11
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Raleigh, NC --- The Carolina Hurricanes sure needed this. They not only needed a win at home after entering Friday night's clash with the Chicago Blackhawks 0-3 at the RBC Center with just one point on the season, but they also needed to defeat a quality team, and do so showing some serious grit to grind out a victory. With scoring an issue, notably with its top playmaker Eric Staal really struggling, Carolina had to reach deep down for this win. It has to know it can win games even when Staal isn't producing, and tonight should help on the confidence front thanks to a 3-0 blanking in its only meeting of the season with the Blackhawks. Staal's time will come. It always does. But the rest of the team must more consistently elevate its game to where it can consistently position itself for wins when the goals aren't coming with regularity. And victories like this prove the Hurricanes have what it takes to win various kinds of affairs. "It was a matter of desperation, I guess," said Canes goaltender Cam Ward, who earned the 17th shutout of his career. "We really wanted to right the ship and play a very solid 60 minutes and get things going before we head off to Philadelphia. Once again we showed that we are capable of playing on a regular basis." Chicago entered with just a single loss on the season, so the Canes knew this was a huge challenge. Starting out 0-4 at home with a game Saturday night at Philadelphia isn't exactly what the franchise had in mind when it made a few offseason tweaks to improve on a club that just barely missed making the playoffs a year ago. The Canes (4-3-3, 11 points) wanted some gravitas and grit, and got it. But they are still known more as a finesse and speed team. No problem, as long as they bring their lunch pails and hard hats every night. And that's what this win was about. This was a bunch of guys standing up for each other, doing whatever was necessary to notch an important victory. "The pucks were bouncing and, yeah, it was grinding," second-year star Jeff Skinner said. "Wardo and the d-men were great back there. In that type of game where you need good goaltending, you need good defensemen, and that was the difference." The Canes were physical, they worked relentlessly digging out pucks, they checked hard, and they did a nice job of absorbing blows on the glass. Heck, Staal's nose was gashed open on a Chicago foolish penalty with 5:33 left in the first period, and like the captain he is, the veteran was back on the ice the next period. It typified the team's mentality Friday night. "We played pretty good," said Brandon Sutter, who scored Carolina's final goal on a breakaway late in the final period. "We did a good job of keeping them to the outside. They have some pretty talented players, they make it challenging, but we did a pretty good job of shutting them down, and that was the difference." Staal, by the way, has just three goals and two assists and is at minus-9 through the first 10 games of the season. He was at just minus-10 last season and finished with 76 points 33 goals and 43 assists. He has averaged 35.8 goals in his first sex NHL seasons. But he's scored in just two games so far, a pair of power play goals in a loss at Washington in the second game and a goal in a 4-1 victory at Boston on Oct. 18, which was also with a man advantage. Ward is usually terrific, but he was sensational in turning away all 30 Chicago shots on goal, several were highlight reel plays. But this win wasn't as much about the All-Star goaltender playing at an amazingly high level, it was how the other pieces fell into place. Well, they didn't just fall into their hands, so to speak, this was a workmanlike effort and dazzling performance that came at the right time.
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