WINNIPEG — Cam Ward admitted he was a little nervous getting back in net after missing six games with a concussion.
“Getting off to a 4-0 lead in the first period definitely helped relieve me,” said Ward, who made 33 saves. “I was a little anxious before.”
Di Giuseppe, Nestrasil and Staal made it 3-0 by 4:33 of the opening period.
Staal’s power-play marker signalled the end of the night for Jets rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck, who had only faced six shots.
Some frustrated fans booed him as he left the ice and cheered when Michael Hutchinson was announced as his replacement, but he let in Faulk’s goal at 10:04 to make it 4-0.
“I think we kind of caught them early and came out strong,” Staal said. “They’re a good team, too, and they made a push back.
“We took a couple of penalties to give them life and that’s how it works in the NHL.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice said his players responded in the right way after finding themselves down 4-0.
“When you are at that moment and things are awful and you’re embarrassed by the way you’re playing, they handled it as best they could and did a hell of a job digging out of a hole,” he said.
Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.
The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-long, six-game homestand, which only featured one victory. The Jets’ 47 points ties them for last place in the NHL with five other teams.
Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.
“As a team we just need to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow,” Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba said. “We don’t have any time to really dwell on it and feel bad for ourselves.”
Despite the outcome, Trouba was still able to find some positives.
“Obviously we know how important a start is and it was an uphill battle all night tonight,” he said. “To give yourself a chance in these games with these good teams, you can’t really do that and spot them four goals to try to battle back from.
“But in the same breath, I thought we didn’t give up, which is something we can be proud of.”
The Jets came out at a faster, more-aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.
Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.
Wheeler’s tip on a Byfuglien one-timer off a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers made it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining and had the fans roaring. Ehlers’ assist extended his points streak to six games, with four goals and four assists.
Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.