From the day in early December when he took over as Hurricanes coach, Paul Maurice preached about being more responsible on defense. Later, he would demand a better work ethic, especially from the forwards in the defensive zone.
That was never more evident than in the 2-1 victory Wednesday over Ottawa at the RBC Center. Maurice said the Canes' top line of Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal and Erik Cole were in a "defensive mode" most of the game, shackling the Senators' high-octane line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
"They shut down their big line," Maurice said.
Heatley, who has 34 goals, had four shots on goal and Alfredsson three. Spezza? Not one shot on goal as the Sens finished with just 22.
"Those are the guys you worry about and they really didn't do a lot," the Canes' Rod Brind'Amour said.
With the defensemen doing their job in front of Cam Ward and Ward turning in another sharp, focused game in net, the Canes ran their win streak to five games.
"It was like a chess match," Sens coach Cory Clouston said. "They are a good team. They were better than us overall."
It wasn't always scintillating hockey -- the game was scoreless after two -- but for the Canes it again was winning hockey.
"Those first two periods weren't the most entertaining hockey I've ever seen," Ward said. "But that's the way it is at this time of the year. Everybody is a little bit cautious and wants to stay tight defensively."
Against the Senators, the Canes were a tight group.
"We're much better in our own end now," Maurice said. "I think the defensive parts of our game are starting to get, hopefully, fairly routine. Defensively, we just work harder for each other in our own end."