Kris Versteeg scores two to help Carolina Hurricanes douse Calgary Flames

By David Droschak, The Sports Xchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Coming to a new team is never easy -- even for a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

"Yeah, I'm starting to get going," said Kris Versteeg, who won two championships with Chicago and scored twice Sunday night for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. "When you get to a new team, sometimes people think it's going to be right away, but it's a new system here; a lot of things I've never done as a hockey player before. I learn every day, little new things about the way Bill (Peters) coaches and what he likes out of guys."


Centers Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm scored first-period goals to get Carolina off to a quick start, and then Versteeg took over with goals in the second and third period to give him 10 goals and 20 assists now with his new team through 50 games. In fact, Versteeg has five goals in his last eight games as the Hurricanes are starting to make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference.


"Kris is what we needed; he's got skill, he's got patience and poise with the puck," coach Peters said of the September trade that brought Versteeg to the Hurricanes. "We knew that coming into the season. We wanted to get our skill level increased and he provides that. He's got some swagger too; he's been around, won two Cups and made some money. So, he's in a good spot in his life. He's in a good spot. Coach plays him and coach likes him. Now he's got to have a good second half."

Left winger Joakim Nordstrom also scored a late goal for the Hurricanes (22-20-8), who rebounded from a 4-1 home loss to the New York Rangers on Friday night -- a game in which they were thoroughly outplayed. Carolina had just one goal in regulation in its last three games before jumping on the visiting Flames in the opening period to eventually build a three-goal lead.

Meanwhile, Calgary (21-22-3) had been off for three days, but couldn't muster much offense and fell behind early despite a pair of power-play opportunities in the opening nine minutes. The Flames, last in the NHL with the man advantage, ended up 0-for-5 on the power play.


"Well, we were not ready -- plain and simple," said Calgary coach Bob Hartley. "You have to forget about this, and the next day you start again. We can't replay this game. That's the bottom line in this business."

After the Flames closed to 3-2, Versteeg and Nordstrom added goals 32 seconds apart midway through the third period to seal the Carolina win as goalie Eddie Lack stopped 33 shots.

"Our penalty kill the last month or so has been playing really, really well," Lack said. "Everyone is kind of buying into the system and doing what they're supposed to be doing, and obviously the coaches are doing a great job of scouting. It definitely clicked today."

Rask scored his 12th this season just 2:26 in, circling along the blue line and then cutting into the slot before beating goalie Karri Ramo between the legs. It was Rask's first goal in nine games and just the 22nd for the Hurricanes in the first period through 50 games. Rask surpassed his rookie goal total of a year ago with the score.

The Hurricanes made it 2-0 with 2:33 left in an opening period when Lindholm scored his seventh on the penalty shot. It was the first penalty shot for Carolina this season the first of Lindholm's career.


Carolina took a three-goal lead less than four minutes into the second when Versteeg added his ninth of the season, connecting on a 2-on-1 play with center Eric Staal, who scored his first point in six games. The Versteeg goal chased Ramo from the Calgary net in favor of Jonas Hiller.

Center Jiri Hudler's first goal since Dec. 4 and sixth of the season got the Flames on the board midway through the second on a delayed penalty, and center Joe Colborne made it a 3-2 game five minutes into the third.

NOTES: Carolina G Eddie Lack got his fourth straight start since Cam Ward went on injured reserve with a concussion. ... Calgary's 21 power-play goals are last in the NHL, and the Flames are also 30th on the penalty kill. ... Flames LW Michael Ferland sat out with an upper-body injury. ... Calgary C Lance Bouma returned to the lineup from a leg laceration after missing four games. ... Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is four games shy of 900. ... The two teams meet again in 10 days in Calgary -- the first game for each after the All-Star break. ... Carolina D Brett Pesce was a game-time decision and sat out with a lower-body injury.


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