RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the moments after the Carolina Hurricanes' 3-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, there were a couple meaningful exchanges.
Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward strode into the coaches' room, puck in hand, after his 22nd career shutout. He didn't dare keep it, knowing that the victory was the first for Bill Peters as an NHL coach.
"I kind of apologized that it took so long to get it," Ward said after his first shutout since March 27, 2012.
Peters had something for Ward as well. The veteran goaltender was the first recipient of a fireman's hat, emblazoned with the Hurricanes' logo. It will go to a standout player after each win. Ward greeted the media at his locker with a grin on his face, likely equal parts amusement and relief.
"Really, you could have given it to anyone out there tonight," Ward said. "But it's an honor to wear it with pride."
After an 0-6-2 start to the season, the Hurricanes finally had something to hang their hat on.
Elias Lindholm scored twice in the first period, giving Carolina a lead for just the second time this season. Jiri Tlusty had his sixth goal of the season in the second period, and Ward recaptured his touch in goal, making a half-dozen big stops among his 25 saves.
Ward, who started the season 0-3-1 with a 3.95 goals-against average, turned in a performance that called to mind his best games in the NHL. After his early-season struggles, the shutout felt extra special.
"Sure, you play this game trying not to get scored on," Ward said. "To be able to get a shutout is a huge bonus and it definitely feels good. But any goaltender will tell you that you can't do it without teammates. Fortunately, I was seeing the puck really well, but that was because of the way the players were playing in front of me."
Lindholm opened the scoring with his first of the season at 3:57 of the first period. After providing a screen for Brett Bellemore's shot, Lindholm pounced on a loose rebound with goaltender Mike Smith sprawled on the ice.
The Coyotes had 3:47 of consecutive power-play time after minor penalties to Justin Faulk and Tlusty. Arizona's power-play unit moved the puck well looking for back-door chances, but managed three shots.
Lindholm pushed Carolina's lead to 2-0 at 17:22. Once again, the second-year Swede corralled a long rebound before ripping a shot through a crowded goalmouth and past Smith.
"Ninety percent of the goals (come from) being around the crease, so if you want to score goals, you better be around the crease," Lindholm said. "Obviously, it's nice to have the lead and not hunting."
Tlusty's goal at 15:21 of the second period gave Carolina a 3-0 lead. Smith's clearing attempt was held in at the left point by Faulk, who sent a low shot toward the net. The puck squirted free to Tlusty at the right post for an easy tap-in. Faulk earned his second assist of the game.
Ward sprinkled in big stops throughout the game, fending off Shane Doan and Martin Erat in the first period before coming across the crease to stop Antoine Vermette on a 2-on-1 in the second. Ward preserved the shutout in the final minute with a low glove save off the stick of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
"It was a good start and we stayed with it," said captain Eric Staal, whose deflection earned an assist on Tlusty's goal. "And when we did give up something, Ward was real solid."
Peters' first coaching win may have been a long time coming, but he wasn't ready to take much credit. Keeping with his style, he remained low-key about his role. Asked what it meant to have Ward deliver the game puck, he deflected a chance to bask in his first win.
"I'm happy for the guys," he said. "They've worked hard. You've seen how they've worked."
And as for the fireman's hat, he continued to show some perspective on the relative importance of hockey.
"To me, those guys are heroes," he said. "Everybody's running from a fire and those guys are going the other way. They save lives. They're people you need. I have a lot of respect for them. I have some friends that are firemen."
Arizona (3-6-1) has lost the first three games of a four-game road trip that ends Sunday against the Washington Capitals. Despite testing Ward with quality shots, the Coyotes 25-shot performance was not enough.
"We got behind early," coach Dave Tippett said. "We made a couple mistakes and got behind, so we chased the game. That's happened too many times to us this year. We were taking chances, but we couldn't capitalize on them. We couldn't get ourselves back in the game."