RALEIGH, N.C. â€” It’s always a special night for Cam Ward when he steps into the crease against the Edmonton Oilers.
And Ward stood tall for the Carolina Hurricanes against his hometown team Friday night.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native stopped 24 shots in a tight contest as the Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 victory.
Sebastian Aho scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period. Jordan Staal had a goal in the first period for Carolina, which split the season series. Edmonton won the other meeting, 3-2 at home on Oct. 18.
Ward, now 32, was a fresh-faced 22-year-old when Carolina won its only Stanley Cup title in 2006, beating the Oilers in seven games. Ward, who had been the backup to Martin Gerber for most of that season, became the No. 1 goalie during the playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player.
That series was Edmonton’s most recent appearance in the playoffs, while Carolina has been back only once since in 2009.
“For me, it’s doubly special because it’s not only the Stanley Cup reunion, but it’s my hometown,” said Ward, who improved to 20-16-6 this season. “I kind of grew up watching the Oilers, and every time I see that uniform it brings back memories of going to the games with my parents. For the most part, I was on tonight, and when we had some breakdowns the guys were there for me. Guys were sacrificing their bodies and trying to do what they can.”
Connor McDavid scored the Oilers’ only goal, tying the game in the second period.
Aho put the Hurricanes ahead on their only power play of the game, beating Cam Talbot on a one-timer from the right circle with Justin Faulk on the primary assist for the rookie’s 16th goal of the campaign.
“Cam (Ward) was good,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “I thought everyone was good. It was a dogfight out there. You’ve got to believe in what you do as a team. We were playing hard, hanging onto pucks, and playing strong.”
Carolina, 17-6-1 at home, improved to 8-0-0 this season when allowing just one goal.
Talbot, who lost for the first time in five appearances against Carolina, had 21 saves.
Edmonton defenceman Matt Benning left at 14:36 of the second after being bloodied by a hard check from Viktor Stalberg behind the Oilers’ goal and did not return.
“Tonight was a real gutsy effort by our group,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “To go down a ‘D-man’ and then go down another one in the third, you’re playing on fumes. We didn’t have enough in the gas tank. I thought it was a good game on their behalf.”
Carolina led 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 9-5 and being penalized once to none for the Oilers.
Staal put the Hurricanes ahead on an even-strength rush at 11:36, receiving a pass from Elias Lindholm in the low slot and beating Talbot stick side for his 11th goal of the season.
“We did a lot of good things in the third period,” Staal said. “We found a way to finish. Edmonton is a quick team with a few players who can move their feet and move the puck well. We tried to limit their chances and I thought we did a good job of that.”
McDavid tied it at 8:04 of the second, taking a stretch pass from Oscar Klefbom on a rush and slamming the puck by Ward’s glove side. McDavid’s 18th goal of the season snapped his two-game points drought.
The Hurricanes outshot Edmonton 12-10 in the second period. Carolina was penalized twice during the frame, while the visitors remained penalty-free.
NOTES: Edmonton LW Jujhar Khaira (upper body) missed his seventh straight game, while Oilers C Anton Lander and D Eric Gryba were healthy scratches. … Carolina RW Ty Rattie, D Ryan Murphy and D Matt Tennyson were healthy scratches. … Oilers D Andrej Sekera played in 131 games for Carolina from 2013-15.
Oilers: Visit Montreal on Sunday in the finale of a three-game road trip.
Hurricanes: Visit New York Islanders on Saturday night in the opener of a three-game road trip.
Mike Potter, The Associated Press