Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 12/16/11
RALEIGH, N.C. -- At this point, all Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller can do is ask that his team play hard and aggressively every night, and in time good times will come. The Canes are seriously depleted right now with Jeff Skinner, Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison shelved with concussions. They are also in the midst of one of the worst streaks in franchise history, which includes its 18 years in Hartford before moving to Carolina in 1997. Carolina, which was coming off a four-game road trip, entered Thursday's game having lost nine of its last 10 games and 21 of its last 26. It had an Eastern Conference low 23 points, which was just one point ahead of the lowest total in the entire NHL. But if Muller's main request was to give maximum effort and leave nothing on the ice, his team certainly executed the command Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. In the process, Carolina managed a 4-3 victory in what turned into one of its best all-around performances of the season. The Canes gave more than the old college try, they literally fought for the victory, and they got it. "It was a gutsy win for our guys," Muller said. "We had some key guys out, we knew that we were playing a really tough opponent here tonight, and to spot them two, that's not the way you want to go. But we keep preaching you have to believe in it and stay with it." Never mind that Cam Ward had some sensational moments in net or that the Hurricanes outshot the Canucks 41-36 on the night, and the visitors had nine penalties to four to the Hurricanes. Those facts are certainly noteworthy and were crucial in the victory, but Muller has a team that has tasted so little success dating back to October, a reason he was brought in here a few weeks ago in place of former coach Paul Maurice, that getting on the same page is vital to generate a building process. And if this team can play like it's defending its manhood every time it steps on the ice that certainly is a terrific first step. Shortening shifts on the ice is helping the longest shift by a Carolina forward Thursday was 44 seconds lead to heightened awareness when lends itself to better decision making and being at the right place at the right time more frequently. That, of course, means more stops on defense and more goals on offense. It's that simple. The first-period fight less than eight minutes into the contest that injected Carolina with the juice it needed to see this victory through amounted to four different combinations of players that squared off, including Carolina's Bryan Allen, who got into the best scrum with Aaron Rome of the Canucks. Allen received a 5-minute fighting penalty, but it was worth it. In all, three Canucks were penalized and two Canes. The crowd roared its approval, as their team was showing the spirit and fight they wanted to see. "Sometimes it's tough when you come off a long road trip and haven't played at home in a while," Allen said. "We came out a little bit flat and they're a good team. (I) just tried to give (us) a little bit of a boost." As impressive as Carolina's grit was on the night, it actually played some pretty good hockey, too. Moments after Drayson Bowman got the Canes on the scoreboard in the second period, a flurry of opportunities by the Canucks were turned away, not just by Ward, but it was a group effort. Of particular note was a brilliant play by Tim Gleason getting rid of the puck from that zone, allowing Ward to exhale. The fans' roar of approval exceeded the appreciation for Bowman's goal. Bowman, by the way, would later score a second goal for a 3-2 lead. With each terrific Ward save the crowd got louder. In the end, it was a Carolina win because the Hurricanes had more goals, but it was really a victory in fight and grit. When you're not as naturally skilled or gifted as plenty of other teams, that must carry you. Perhaps the Canes took a step on this night in adopting that as their DNA moving forward.
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