ANAHEIM --The puck was sitting an inch or so from the goal line for what, to the Hurricanes, must have seemed like an eternity.
With less than 11 minutes to play against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night, the Canes led 2-1. There was a flurry of activity around Carolina goalie Michael Leighton, and the puck came free and dropped near the goal line. For a second or two, it sat there, with Ducks fans at the Honda Center in a frenzy and perhaps the game in the balance.
But Leighton alertly pounced on the puck. In his second start of the season, he would have 32 saves as the Canes picked up a hard-earned two points for the 3-1 victory and eased a little of the pain of the 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
"It was not a pretty win," said the Canes' Eric Staal, whose empty-net goal with 38 seconds left finished it off. "Obviously, goal-tending was huge for us. A goalie can win a game for you."
Ryan Bayda's goal six minutes into the game gave the Canes a 1-0 lead, but the Ducks tied it 1-1 in the second on a Francois Beauchemin goal. But with 1:12 left in the second, Rod Brind'Amour scored on a backhand against Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Niclas Wallin tried to get off a hard slapshot but got a piece of the puck, which went lazily bouncing and bounding. Brind'Amour calmly gathered it in to the right of the goal and put it in the net for a 2-1 lead.
"A timely goal," Canes coach Peter Laviolette said.
"A lucky break, really," Brind'Amour said. "It bounced past the defensemen and I knew I had time. Everything worked out. It was the only chance I had all game."
Laviolette would call it a "gutsy" win. Leighton was sharp when he had to be and the Canes killed off four penalties. Late in the game, Carolina's Sergei Samsonov was called for hooking, but the Canes killed off the penalty as Brandon Sutter made some hustling plays in clearing the puck out of the zone.
But everybody, it seemed, had a hand in the victory for the Canes (3-1-1). Bayda's goal came on a neat feed from Staal behind the net, Samsonov was active all game and everyone chipped in defensively to help Leighton.
"We gave up a couple of scoring chances we don't want to give up too often," Leighton said. "But we made sure we tightened it up and the guys did a good job."
And, of course, Leighton did his job.
One downside to the victory was that the Canes failed to produce a power-play goal for the third straight game. Although its puck movement was better, Carolina was 0-4 on the power play against the Ducks, getting five shots, and has failed to score on its last 13 power plays.
"I don't think we played all that well, but our goalie stood on his head and made the big saves when he had to," Brind'Amour said. "The big picture is that we need to be better and I felt we should have won the (Kings) game. But we did get three out of four points."