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Justin Williams scores winner as Hurricanes hold on to beat Flames

CALGARY — The Carolina Hurricanes are doing their best to prove they are for real early in the season.

Jeff Skinner scored his team-leading third goal and had an assist to lead Carolina to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

It completed a sweep of Alberta for Carolina, which won 5-3 in Edmonton on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to get better every game and we’re a team that’s trying to make that next step from being a non-playoff team to playoff team to contender,” said veteran right winger Justin Williams, whose first goal of the season 1:09 into the third period made it 2-0 and would end up the game-winner.

Williams got the puck near the face-off dot and as Mike Smith slid across and stacked his pads, the veteran wired a shot under the crossbar.

The Hurricanes were on their fifth power play of the game, the result of an undisciplined roughing penalty on Matthew Tkachuk at the end of the second — an infraction the 19-year-old accepted the blame for.

“That was stupid, uncalled for at the end of the period,” admitted Tkachuk. “You can’t put yourself in that position. I take full responsibility.”

Gulutzan wasn’t happy with it either.

“He should take full responsibility for the penalty,” Gulutzan stated. “Now it’s 2-0 against a good defensive team. That’s a tough hill to come back from.”

Gulutzan hinted that a couple of his players are going to see reduced ice time for their chronic penalty issues. Taking two more minors to tie Tkachuk for the team lead with seven minor penalties apiece was Sam Bennett. The 2014 fourth-overall pick has also not yet picked up a point this season.

“It’s the same guys taking penalties and the same types of penalties. Those guys are going to dress but they’re going to lose some of their prime real estate ice time,” said the Flames coach, not naming names. “We’ll just clean it up with the guys that can control themselves.”

Sean Monahan, with his team-leading fourth goal, scored for Calgary (4-3-0). The Flames are back in action on Saturday when they host Minnesota.

Carolina (3-1-1) improves to 2-1-0 on a four-game road trip that wraps up Saturday night in Dallas.

It was a listless effort from the Flames most of the night before mounting a late push starting with Monahan’s goal with 3:28 left in the third period.

“It looked like we had no jump from the start and we created no momentum for ourselves,” said Monahan. “It didn’t look like we had any energy and that hurt us.”

The Flames centre spoiled Scott Darling’s shutout bid when he one-timed a Johnny Gaudreau pass inside the goal post.

Also assisting on the play was Jaromir Jagr. The 45-year-old, still looking for his first goal with Calgary, was robbed by Darling on a great glove save from just a couple feet away earlier in the third.

“Those are the ones you just get desperate and throw some body parts at,” said Darling, who is 2-1-1. “It’s pretty cool it was him. I didn’t know it at the time. He’s Jaromir Jagr. It’s cool to say you made a save on him.”

Darling finished with 25 saves, while at the other end Smith had 31 stops.

In a scary incident halfway through the first period, Skinner hit veteran Kris Versteeg twice in a row with shots. First, he hit him in the knee. Just a few seconds later while Versteeg was down on the ice, writhing in pain, Skinner’s slap shot hit him in the side of his head, breaking his helmet.

Versteeg had to be carried off the ice in an incident that fortunately looked scarier than it turned out to be. Versteeg returned early on in the second.

Carolina finished 1 for 6 on the power play while the Flames were scoreless on their lone attempt.

Notes: For the first time in his four games, Jagr played right wing on the Flames top line with Monahan and Gaudreau… Carolina defenceman Trevor van Riemsdyk (concussion) returned after missing three games.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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Justin Williams scores winner as Hurricanes hold on to beat Flames


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