OTTAWA — Despite giving up two goals eight seconds apart in the final minute of the second period to tie the game, the Carolina Hurricanes seemed to have no issues with a letdown in the third period on Sunday afternoon.
Justin Williams scored the winning goal and broke a 4-4 tie with a power-play goal at 7:34 of the third as the Hurricanes defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-4. One minute later, Williams nearly scored again but he was robbed with a great glove save from Anders Nilsson, who came on in relief of Senators starter Marcus Hogberg in the second period.
Justin Faulk and Brock McGinn each had a goal and an assist as Carolina won its fourth straight game. Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton also scored for the Hurricanes (19-17-5), who got a 27-save performance from Petr Mrazek.
"It was surprisingly easy to (mentally) park (the end of the second period). I know you’ll probably look at me and roll your eyes, but good teams pick each other up," Williams said.
"Mrazek came in and said ‘that was on me’ and we instantly said ‘No, no, no. You’ve had our back all the time, so it’s time for us to pick you up’, and that’s what teams do, they pick each other up. They don’t let someone stew about it and we had a great third period and won the game."
Jean-Gabriel Pageau tied the game 4-4 in his return to Ottawa’s lineup after missing the entire season to date with a torn Achilles he suffered on the first day of training camp.
Just eight seconds earlier in the second period Rudolfs Balcers scored his first NHL goal in his second career game as the Senators (15-23-5) saw their losing skid stretch to eight games. Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel also scored.
Hogberg started in goal for the Senators and allowed three goals on 16 shots. Nilsson turned aside 11 of the 13 shots he faced.
"It was fast. The first few shifts were shorter than I expected," said Pageau of his first game since April. "It’s hard to prepare at this level and it doesn’t matter how hard you work out, it’s totally different when you come into a game like that.
"Right off the bat I tried to get myself in the game. I take pride in playing for the Sens and playing this game at hone after everything I’ve gone through since the first day of camp. It means a lot to me."
The Hurricanes had a ferocious start, scoring on two of their first three shots less than five minutes into the game.
Faulk opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 1:12 of the first period with a point shot that beat Hogberg. Then, at 4:28, McGinn scored a short-handed goal as he slid a backhand through Hogberg’s legs on a breakaway.
"We’re not doing enough of the little things to win right now and it sucks," said Senators forward Chris Tierney, who had two assists.
"We didn’t start well and that hurt us. It just seems like every night it’s something else and we need to figure out a way to get everything going at once to win in this league."
That was all the scoring in the opening period although the Senators created several good opportunities but were unable to beat Mrazek.
Ottawa finally did break through at 2:32 of the second period when Duchene beat Mrazek from in tight after a cross-crease pass from Bobby Ryan.
The Hurricanes regained their two-goal lead and knocked Hogberg from the Senators’ goal at the same time as Slavin scored at 6:13 with a slapshot.
Ottawa got that one back at 12:17 on a power play as Dzingel beat Mrazek with a backhand, but at 14:54 Hamilton beat Nilsson to put the Hurricanes up 4-2. It was just the second shot Nilsson had faced.
Then came the final minute fireworks as Balcers scored at 19:12 and Pageau scored eight seconds later to tie the game 4-4 heading to the third.
Notes: Nick Paul and Ben Harpur were scratches for the Senators while Clark Bishop was a scratch for the Hurricanes … Sunday’s meeting was the first of three this season between the two teams. They will play in North Carolina Jan. 18 and back in Ottawa Feb. 12 … The Senators open a three-game California road trip in Anaheim Wednesday. The Hurricanes are in New York Tuesday to face the Islanders.