Hurricanes fly past Senators in 6-3 win

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes extended their win streak to three games as they filled the net to earn a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena on Saturday.

Tying a season record for total goals scored in a game, Manny Malhotra (2g, 1a) led five total Hurricanes scorers in vaulting past the Senators in the Eastern Conference standings.

Malhotra’s line mate Nathan Gerbe tallied a career-high three points in the game as he posted a goal and two assists.

Scoring the other singles for Carolina was captain Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu, and Riley Nash while goaltender Anton Khudobin made 23 saves to earn his 10th win of the season.

“We’ve done a good job of maintaining focus for each individual game,” Malhotra said.

“Obviously, when we do that, it gives us the opportunity to put a little bit of a string together.”

Both teams took to the ice for a Noon start in front of a smaller-than-normal crowd of 11,458 due to the fact that the game had been moved from the originally scheduled Friday night time slot to accommodate for the Hurricanes’ rescheduled game earlier in the week against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Those who did make it were treated to a goal-scoring rush between the two teams as they met for the second time this season, following a 4-1 Hurricanes win back on Nov. 24th.

The Hurricanes extended their undefeated record (11-0-1) in the last 12 games played between the two teams in Raleigh, and highlighted once again their dominance over the Senators that included a four-goal second period.

“People got their money’s worth,” defenseman Andrej Sekera said after tallying two assists and establishing a new career high in total points – currently sitting third in overall team scoring with 30 points (8g, 22a).

“At the end of the day we won the game. It’s a very good feeling and a huge two points for us.”

Gerbe opened the game’s scoring at the 10:30 mark of the opening period with a wraparound attempt that caught Ottawa starting goalkeeper Robin Lehner off guard.

Defenseman Mike Komisarek dumped the puck into the corner where Malhotra then pushed it towards Gerbe who was parked behind the goal line.

The shifty Carolina forward then turned in the other direction and wrapped a forehand shot attempt around the net towards Lehner’s skates and watched it go in to post his 11th goal of the season.

While the Senators managed to outshoot the Hurricanes 10-6 in the first period, only one of them presented much of a threat to evening the score by beating Khudobin.

As Carolina struggled to get the puck moving smoothly during its first man-advantage opportunity of the game, the Senators’ Kyle Turris picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and with Erik Karlsson took off on a 2-on-1 opportunity looking to even the score.

As Turris feathered a pass to Karlsson who was left all alone to face Khudobin, the Russian netminder made a big pad save to keep Carolina ahead by one with 3:56 to go in the period.

Three minutes later, the Hurricanes almost extended their lead to two goals.

As the puck dribbled along the bench-side boards towards the Ottawa zone, Carolina forward Elias Lindholm got his stick on it before being sandwiched by two Senators.

As the puck emerged from the scrum, a streaking Jordan Staal picked it up and ripped a shot from the top of the circle that beat Lehner high over his stick-side shoulder.

However, upon video review it was ruled that the puck had struck the post and did not cross the goal line, and left the Hurricanes holding onto the 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

“These afternoon games, you don’t know what to expect,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said.

“I was really happy with our start in the first period and all that. We looked like were in control and then we made a few mistakes and we kind of just blamed it on a few brain cramps in an afternoon game. It was great how we came back in the third and calmed down, and started all over again.”

The Senators dominated play during the first five minutes of play in the second period as the Hurricanes struggled to gain puck possession in their own zone.

Cody Ceci picked up the puck at the blue line and skated into the slot and let a slap shot go that Khudobin had to be sharp in snagging with his trapper.

After picking the puck out of a scrum behind the Hurricanes net defenseman Ron Hainsey initiated the breakout with a pass to Alex Semin who then found Staal breaking at center ice with a line-to-line pass that put him all alone with only Lehner to beat.

With ample time and space Staal threaded a shot low and between Lehner’s pads that put Carolina ahead 2-0 at the 6:05 mark.

Just 32 seconds later, Gerbe carried the puck along the boards to Lehner’s right and as Ottawa defenseman Mark Methot sprawled towards him and slid by, he placed a pass into the slot past the Senators’ other defenseman, Eric Gryba, to a waiting Malhotra.

With nothing but net in front of him, and with Lehner sliding to attempt to stop his one-timer, Malhotra deposited his fifth goal of the season into the net and extended the Hurricanes lead to 3-0 with 13:23 remaining.

“It was a big night for our line,” Gerbe said.

“Anytime a third line can step up and contribute like that, it’s gonna’ help this team.”

As the Hurricanes continued to expose Ottawa’s defensive lapses and lack of foot speed to gain puck possession, Sekera picked the puck up near the top of the circle in the Ottawa zone and proceeded to carry it into the corner looking to make a pass into the slot.

He found Riley Nash wide open who then took an extra second to line up a shot on a string that beat Lehner high and over his glove as the Carolina lead ballooned to four goals, 4-0, with 6:37 to play in the period

Carolina’s work in trying to secure a shutout for Khudobin ended just 35 seconds later as the Hurricanes suffered a defensive lapse of their own.

As Khudobin and defenders Ron Hainsey and John-Michael Liles tried to clear a shot from Gryba at the point, Ottawa’s Clarke MacArthur slid the puck across to Kyle Turris who was sitting all alone at the right crease.

Turris ripped a shot into the top corner of the wide open net and reduced the Carolina lead to 4-1.

The Hurricanes then picked up a hefty power play opportunity as Chris Neil’s stick ended up clipping defenseman Jay Harrison in the face and gave Carolina a four-minute man-advantage at 16:21.

While on the penalty kill, Turris managed to break the puck out of his zone and together with MacArthur passed it back and forth until Turris got the pass back to roof it over a sprawling Khudobin.

With Turris tallying his second of the game shorthanded, and with 33 seconds to go in the period, the Hurricanes were still on the power play with Neil still in the penalty box.

Sekera eventually found Ruutu who was coming on the ice on a line change and and fed the Finn a pass while he was going at full speed.

Ruutu made no mistake as he tallied the Hurricanes lone power play goal of the game by beating Lehner with a shot between the pads, and pushed the lead back to three goals at 5-2.

While many in the building were just getting situated in their seats after celebrating Ruutu’s goal, Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad scored on a rebound attempt just 10 seconds later to reduce Carolina’s lead back to 5-3.

Ottawa started the third period replacing Lehner, who made 17 saves on 22 shots faced, with Craig Anderson.

The Hurricanes tested him early with six shots during the first 10 minutes of play, and he looked to be up to the test considering he came off the bench with no warm-up.

Even while afforded another power play opportunity with one of Ottawa’s top scorers, Bobby Ryan, in the penalty box, Carolina could not put together an effective set of sequences to put a puck past Anderson for the remainder of the game.

With so many goals being scored, it was notable that neither team’s key scorers such as Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin, nor Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Ryan, scored any of them.

“When you get secondary scoring from your third and fourth line like that, that’s a huge plus,” Muller said.

“It’s interesting. Before the game, we looked at their two top lines and they’ve got some major production from those guys throughout the year.  Both Staal brothers’ lines had to really play well and outplay those two lines. It turns out that they did play well, but it’s the third and fourth that came up with the big goals tonight.”

With 1:41 left in the game, Malhotra put away an empty-net goal and the Hurricanes held off the Senators to secure the 6-3 win.

“We’ve got a good team,” Staal said.

“I think we’re confident in this room with our ability and the way that we play. If we do the right things and right now we’re startin’ to develop some chemistry and some comfort in each other and our game. It’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling with confidence knowing that you can win the tight game and if you play the right way, you’re gonna’ get the opportunities like we did tonight and score in bunches.”