Warren Foegele felt the nerves before his NHL debut. Once he calmed down, the points started to add up.
Foegele had a goal and an assist in his first game, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Monday night.
"It took me (until) about the third shift to realize it was just another hockey game," Foegele said, repeatedly calling it "a surreal moment."
Brock McGinn and Valentin Zykov scored 98 seconds apart in the second period, Sebastian Aho had an empty-netter with 1:59 remaining and Derek Ryan had two assists to help the Hurricanes win their third straight.
Carolina – still a serious longshot to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 – moved within seven points of idle New Jersey for the eighth post-season spot in the East with six games left.
The most inexperienced of the Hurricanes played key roles in this one, and not just Foegele. It was the sixth career game for both Zykov and defenceman Roland McKeown – who was on the ice for each of Carolina's first three goals.
"They can come in here and instil that youth and energy and vigour, and I think they've shown that," Ryan said. "They've done that so far, and it's fun to have that kind of the smiles on their faces, to see Warren score his first goal in his first game and smile on the bench, he's excited and it kind of makes me relive those memories for myself."
Bobby Ryan scored and Craig Anderson stopped 26 shots for the Senators, who lost their fifth straight and have been outscored 22-7 in their last four. The Hurricanes beat them twice in three nights by a combined 9-3 score.
"You can look down the lineup, we're plugging in guys to see where they fit, and trying different players here and there," Anderson said. "As long as the compete level's there, you can't fault anybody, and that's how it was tonight. We came out, we competed and just weren't able to get the win."
Cam Ward made 19 saves for Carolina, which recalled Foegele from its AHL affiliate in Charlotte during a day off Sunday.
Both of his shots resulted in goals.
His first career goal came with 1:08 left in the first when he skated up the end line and slipped the puck between Anderson's glove and the post.
"The best advice I got was to just shoot it on net," Foegele said. "So I shot it, and it just went in."
He assisted on Zykov's go-ahead goal with 5:22 left in the second, with the physical Russian forward poking in the rebound of Foegele's shot to make it 2-1.
McGinn then cashed in on an Ottawa turnover, taking a pass from Jordan Staal and whipping in a shot from between the circles to make it a two-goal game with 3:44 left.
NOTES: Aho has a point in nine straight games. ... Ward improved to 10-1-2 in his last 13 against the Senators. ... Zykov has six points in six career games. ... Ottawa C Matt Duchene, who assisted on Bobby Ryan's goal, has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in his last 21 games. ... Ottawa D Erik Karlsson didn't make the trip. Karlsson and his wife announced last week that their son Axel had been born stillborn.
Senators: Return home to face the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
Hurricanes: Visit New Jersey on Tuesday night.