It was Justin Williams’ big day with Hurricanes but Kings won the game

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It was Hall of Fame day for the Carolina Hurricanes, who formally honored former star winger Justin Williams.

Williams had his parents on hand Monday at PNC Arena. And his sister. And his wife and two kids.

Williams became the fifth member of the Hurricanes Hall of Fame. It made for an emotional and stirring pregame ceremony.

“It got the better of me,” Williams later said. “But I was able to compose myself and get through it. It was great.”

The ceremony, yes. But not the game as the Los Angeles Kings scored four times in the third period in taking a 5-2 victory to end the Canes’ eight-game point steak.

Having the Kings and a few former teammates, including Kings captain Anze Kopitar, in the building did add to the moment for Williams. He won a Stanley Cup with the Canes in 2006 but then twice took the Cup with Kopitar and the Kings in 2012 and 2014.

“Two franchises I played 500 games with, so it really encapsulates my career having these two teams here. It was awesome,” Williams said.

The Kings (21-11-8) scored twice in the first 2:20 of the third period as Phillip Danault and Alex Laferriere beat Canes goalie Antti Raanta – Danault’s goal just after the Canes (24-14-5) finished killing off a penalty to start the third.

When the Kings added a fourth score for a 4-1 lead, goaltender Yaniv Perets made his NHL debut for Carolina, replacing Raanta, who gave the rookie pro a tap on the helmet as he left the ice.

Goalie David Rittich picked up the win in his fifth appearance of the season for the Kings.

Before Monday, the Canes had points in eight straight games (7-0-1) and the Kings were winless in their last eight (0-4-4). The Hurricanes also had won the last eight games against the Kings, taking a shootout in the second game of this season.

Jan 15, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Roy (3) and center Jaret Anderson-Dolan (28) check Carolina Hurricanes center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (82) off the puck during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Roy (3) and center Jaret Anderson-Dolan (28) check Carolina Hurricanes center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (82) off the puck during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings led 1-0 after the first, getting a goal from Trevor Moore, as the Canes appeared a half-step slow. That changed in the second period. Canes forward Jordan Martinook one-timed a pass from Seth Jarvis – Martinook’s third goal in as many games – to tie the score 1-1.

But the Kings controlled the third although Jack Drury did score his eighth of the season for the Canes. Moore scored again for the Kings with a late empty-netter.

Williams was the Canes captain in 2018-19, Rod Brind’Amour’s first year as head coach, when Carolina returned to the Stanley Cup playoffs after missing out nine straight seasons. Having the “C” and being instrumental in ending that frustrating postseason drought was meaningful, he said, especially for someone in his mid-30’s.

“The longer you play, people will start to look at you, right?” he said. “You’ve got to pick up the leadership qualities, the leadership abilities, and pass that along. Because this organization is important to me, it’s very important that this team is good for a very long time and pushed toward what it means to ‘be a Hurricane’ type thing.

“I was able to be a captain for the first time here at Carolina and was really honored. A little scared, but at the same time you go out there and do what you do and nothing else has to change.”

Williams, 42, spent part of the second period Monday with the Canes’ TV broadcast team, analyzing things. As a retired hockey player, he’s a free agent of sorts and has done some analyst work in the studio for Sportsnet Monday Night Hockey in Canada.

Such has been a part of his life since ending a 19-year career with his retirement in October 2020.

“The quicker you can realize you’re not an NHL player anymore and no one cares about you anymore, that’s the best way to move on,” Williams said. “You’re just ‘Dad,” you’re Justin. No one wants your autograph anymore. It’s fine.”

But Williams will always be remembered for his contributions to the Hurricanes and his part in franchise history. His name is on the Stanley Cup with the Canes.

“There’s a history now and that’s the best part about it now,” Williams said. “When the team first came here (in 1997), it was kind of ‘be the history.’ Now you want to be part of history. That really says a lot about hockey here in North Carolina.”