VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Alex Nedeljkovic’s first NHL start could not have gone much better.
The young goalie made 24 saves and Nino Niederreiter scored twice as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Nedeljkovic got called up this month when Curtis McElhinney sustained a lower-body injury. The 23-year-old netminder was 20-5-2 with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
His parents flew in to watch him play and Nedeljkovic picked them out in the crowd early. He was excited to get the opportunity to start, but kept some sage advice in the back of his mind.
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“One of my goalie coaches told me growing up, ‘Play every game like it’s the biggest game of your life so when you play the biggest game of your life it’s just another game.’ So that’s just kind of how I looked at today,” Nedeljkovic said. “Just another Wednesday night game and we came out on top.”
Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and two assists for Carolina. Greg McKegg and Dougie Hamilton each added a goal and an assist as the Hurricanes snapped Vancouver’s five-game point streak in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Sebastian Aho had two assists, and Carolina took five points during a three-game road swing through Canada.
“That wasn’t very good,” Vancouver’s Bo Horvat said. “We gave ourselves a chance there in the second period. And right after that, I think we just kind of took our foot off the gas.”
Teravainen’s big performance came two days after the forward agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $27 million.
Niederreiter has four goals since Minnesota traded him to Carolina for Victor Rask last week. The 26-year-old right wing said his new teammates have been creating opportunities for him to score.
“They are great playmakers. You try to find the hole. You have to move around,” he said. “You can’t stand still and wait for something to happen. You have to open areas so guys can find you, that’s what has been working well.”
Josh Leivo and Sven Baertschi scored for the Canucks. Jacob Markstrom stopped 29 shots.
“They forecheck really hard and they were all over us in the second. They won the most battles. And their scoring chances paid off, too,” Markstrom said.
“They wanted these two points more than we did.”
Nedeljkovic’s first real test of the night came early in the second period after Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson made a no-look pass to Baertschi in front. Baertschi took the shot, but Nedeljkovic was there to gobble up the puck.
Carolina opened the scoring 1:54 into the second with a power-play goal after Loui Eriksson was called for tripping. Markstrom stopped a shot from Teravainen but couldn’t corral the rebound and it popped out to Niederreiter, who put it into the empty side.
Vancouver responded just more than a minute later with Troy Stecher getting a high pass to Leivo in front of the net. The left wing flicked it in for his ninth goal.
The Canucks went up by one after some stunning stickhandling by Pettersson.
The 20-year-old center started with a behind-the-back pass to Brock Boeser, who got the puck back to him down low. Instead of shooting, Pettersson sliced a pass to Baertschi and he tipped it in through a hole on Nedeljkovic’s blocker side.
Less than two minutes later, McKegg tied it by beating Markstrom with a rocket of a one-timer. Carolina added three more unanswered goals before the end of the period.
“We got down 2-1 and just stuck to the game plan, got pucks in deep, got pucks to the net and got on them,” McKegg said. “And it paid dividends in that period.”
Tempers flared in the third, with two Canucks getting ejected.
Fists started flying 6:30 into the period after Vancouver’s Antoine Roussel took an elbow to the face. The fiery Frenchman pushed through officials to go after Niederreiter and was handed minor penalties for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct, plus a 10-minute misconduct.
Erik Gudbranson joined Roussel in the Canucks dressing room about 10 minutes later.
The defenseman tried to drop the gloves with Andrei Svechnikov after the Carolina right wing banged him into the boards. The play sparked a melee in front of the Hurricanes net, and Gudbranson was given a double-minor for roughing, plus a 10-minute misconduct.
Both teams are now off for the All-Star break followed by a bye week.
The Canucks sit just outside a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“We can take this as a fresh start and come back mentally tough and play that much better,” Horvat said. “Over the break, it’s definitely going to be in the back of our minds that we weren’t good enough and we’ll have to push that much harder.”
NOTES: Hurricanes left wing Michael Ferland was scratched with an upper-body injury. He left Tuesday’s game against Calgary in the second period. … Carolina leads the NHL in shots per game with 35.8. “We knew they were going to come out hard, be a fast team and put lots of pucks on net. We didn’t execute well enough to stop that,” Horvat said. … Boeser got his 18th assist. He has six points in his last five games.
Hurricanes: Back in action Feb. 1 when they host Vegas.
Canucks: Begin a four-game road trip Feb. 2 in Colorado.
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